The workers in the vineyard – Sheena Thompson

Matthew 20:1-16

I have always struggled with this parable.  It just never sat right with me, why did those who worked and sweated all day be paid exactly the same amount as those who came and worked for a few hours in the cool of the evening?  It just didn’t seem fair.  If I worked for a day and my colleague put in half a day I would expect more denarius than him in my pay slip.

But then my viewpoint changed.  Our kids were keen to make some pocket money and were looking for something to do.  So I asked them to help me rake some soil flat so we could sow grass seed.  And I heard myself say ‘Just do your best, it doesn’t matter how much you do, you will both get the same amount of money.’  Then Charlotte went off in a mood.  What I said didn’t seem fair to her.  But as a parent who loves both children equally and who knows the younger one is unlikely to stick at the task as long as the other I wanted them to have an equal reward.

And I realised I had been looking at the parable of the workers in the vineyard through the eyes of a child who is concerned about fairness.  But through the eyes of a parent I understand that my Father in heaven loves me just as much as the Christian who has known and served Him for 50 years and the Christian who has known Him for 5 minutes.  We are all children of God, we are all loved and we all receive the same gift of eternal life.

In the parable those who had known the landowner and worked a full day were paid exactly the same as the workers who worked in the evening because nobody hired them – they didn’t know the landowner to be able to work in his field.  I understand that parable now I look at our two children, Daniel has known this world 3 years less than Charlotte is less able to work as a consequence.  I get why I would want to reward both children equally because I love them equally and how much or little they can do for me doesn’t change that.

The parable of the workers in the vineyard is not about what is fair, it is all about grace.  Grace is the opposite of karma, it’s getting what we don’t deserve.  We live in a world which concentrates so much on getting what you deserve – the correct pay, status in society, punishment. That the idea of getting more than we deserve seems alien.

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – it is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love, we already have it.  We have His grace and we are all equally loved.  I am so glad that I don’t have to earn that love and that my brothers and sisters in Christ will receive the same amazing gift as me.  Just like there is nothing our kids need to do to earn my love, they already have it.  (And it was Daniel who ended up working more than Charlotte in the end.  Still got paid the same though.)

Dear Father,

Thank you that we are all so loved and are equal in your eyes, we don’t have to earn your love or a place with you.   I am sorry that sometimes struggle to understand the Bible, that worldly ideas get in the way of understanding your true message.  I thank you that teaching of your word comes in the everyday from all sorts of teachers.  Thank you for grace, and help me to show that to others that grace.

Amen

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