The Gospel According to Matthew 20:1-16
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning, he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So, they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon, he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So, when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Reflection: I’m sure everyone, at one time or another, has seen the commercials or infomercials that state, “Be the first 100 callers and you will receive an added bonus or a significant discount. I would imagine that most callers just missed that magic number or time frame.
Not so with God! Jesus ends this parable with this phrase, “So, the last will be first and the first will be last. Is Jesus giving those who don’t rush to Him and believe in Him a special deal or bonus? Or is there an advantage to waiting until the very end of one’s life to let God into your heart and soul? No!!
The most direct interpretation, based on the content of this parable, is that ALL believers, no matter how long or how hard they work during this lifetime, they will receive the same rewards; and that is eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ. Does the realization of this make our place in line or order less important, knowing that we all have equal value or worth in God’s eyes? It is in our humility that allows us to accept the fact that we are all ‘the first to call’.
Action of the Day: Pray on this today. Parables take concepts that are difficult to understand and places them inside stories about familiar topics. Because the answers given in parables are indirect, they work like puzzles, giving our minds time to figure out what is being said, leading us to a deeper and more spiritual understanding.