Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Matthew 20:15
One of the most frustrating parables in Jesus’ teaching is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In the story, the owner of the vineyard sends his manager out to find workers. At various times in the day the manager goes out and finds more workers. Some work all day. Some work only the last hour or so. But at the end of the day, every worker gets a day’s pay. There is no extra for the ones who actually worked the whole day. There is no less for the ones who only worked the last hour. The result – outrage from the ones who got what they expected when those who worked less got that much as well. Shouldn’t they have gotten more?
As in most parables, Jesus’s story uses hyperbole – it exaggerates the story to make the point frustratingly clear. God is generous, perhaps generous to a fault by human standards. While we want justice and for the world to be fair, Jesus says that God wants there to be enough for everyone. In a world where people couldn’t live on less than a fair day’s pay, less than the day’s wage would have meant suffering and shortage. Workers would go home and not be able to put food on the table for their children to eat. God’s vision of the world includes enough for everyone. Anything less, while it may seem unfair to us, seems unjust to God.
Life in God’s kingdom is unlike most of what we experience in our world. It is radically loving, jarringly generous, and disrupts a lot of what we assume to be “right” in our world. People who follow Jesus will need to have big hearts to act like God and thick skin to not act like sinful human beings. Much of what makes God happy bothers us. It always has – that’s why they killed Jesus.
May Lent be a time of realigning your heart with the heart of God and may it result in you being more loving, more generous, and more committed to helping the world look a bit more like God promises it one day will.