Once upon a time, a man—let’s call him Carl—was building a restaurant but needed some laborers to help with the construction of it. One morning, a little before 7 a.m. he went out looking for people to hire. He found many willing and they all agreed to work (7 to 6) for $200. Everyone was excited! Around 9:00 a.m. Carl noticed some people standing idly in the streets and offered them a job, promising to pay them a fair wage. So, they trusted him to do so and began working.
At 12 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. Carl saw others standing around and offered them the same deal. And they gladly went to work. And about 5 p.m. Carl saw more people just standing around with nothing to do. He asked them, “Why aren’t you working?” And they told him, “No one has offered us a job.” So, Carl said, “You can work for me. Go join the others.” And they gladly did.
Now at 6 p.m. Carl told his foreman to call everyone to be paid, beginning with the last ones hired. And—get this—the guys who began work at 5 p.m. received $200! 😮 And so did the guys who began at 3 p.m. and 12 p.m. and 9 a.m. When it came time for those guys who started at 7 a.m. to receive their wages, they were all expecting to be paid more. Because, after all, they had worked longer than any of the others. But they received $200 as well. 😦
And they were mad! 😠 They complained to Carl saying that they had worked harder and longer and it had been a really hot day! What did Carl say? “Fellows, I did you no wrong. Didn’t you all agree to work for $200? Take your money and go. It is my choice to pay people as I wish. It’s my money. Am I not allowed to do what I want with it? Or do you resent my generosity? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely?”
Hmm. 🤔 This is my modern-day version of the parable Jesus told as recorded in Matthew 20. And I must say, it makes me a little mad. I sympathize with the guys who worked an eleven-hour day yet received the same wages as those who worked one hour. It just does not seem fair! 😠
So, what was Jesus’ point? Well, on a practical note, we could say that the people who worked all day at least felt good all day. They knew they would be getting a big paycheck at the end of the day. The work gave them purpose and hope. But for those who wanted to work but could not? Their day was worrisome and hopeless until they were offered a job. Contrary to popular belief, work is a good thing! But I don’t think that was Jesus’ point. 🧐
What stands out about this parable is that the first ones hired felt they were treated unfairly. But you see, God is not interested in the fair treatment of people! Wait! What? 😲 Nope. And we should be glad of that! Do you really want God to give you what you deserve? (Think hard before you answer! 🙄) God is interested in mercy.
The problem is we are forever comparing ourselves to everyone else. And this way of living can only result in envy or pride: either we feel we deserve more than we have or we feel we are better than everyone else. In this parable, Jesus is saying, “Stop comparing yourselves to others! Be grateful for what God gives you. It is more than enough!”
So, I’ll just end with that thought. For now . . . 😏