Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16
Key verse: (1) “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…”
Reflection: As I write this devotional, I’m preparing to head to Ahuachapán, El Salvador with 30 of our youth group for a week of service with Habitat for Humanity of El Salvador. As you read this devotional, we are likely starting our fourth day of work on a home in the community. Most of our group has no doubt been working really hard; sanding, painting hammering, sawing, digging, and no doubt sweating as they have spent the majority of the day in demanding physical labor. I, on the other hand, will likely be getting pulled out for meetings with leadership of our partner organizations, maybe even in air conditioning. So at the end of each day, I’m probably not as worn out as the rest of the group likely is. That is no doubt making me feel guilty, as I have not borne the burden of the day as many of them have.
So I couldn’t resist writing today’s devotional on Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard. I get why the people who have been working all day are not happy that they get the same wages as people who only worked for an hour. And I would imagine some of those workers hired at the end of the day are pretty uncomfortable receiving the same wages as those who worked a full day, (probably not uncomfortable enough to give some of their wages to their friends!) but at least there’s likely a little guilt in play. In the parable, from the standpoint of the landowner, it’s all good. He met the obligation he made to those who worked a full day, paying them a full day’s wage. And he chose to be generous to those who didn’t work a full day, also giving them a full day’s wage. “Are you envious because I am generous?” asks the landowner to one of the workers who put in a full day’s labor.
Where do you find yourself in this story? Informed by our Calvinist work ethic, most of us see ourselves as those who have worked a full day. As I’m in business meetings while our crew is laboring in the heat here in El Salvador, I no doubt feel more like those workers blessed by the landowner’s generosity, because I’m receiving something I don’t feel like I’ve really earned. According to this parable, in the end, who among us can really say we “earned” anything? It is the land owner who makes it all possible. Our very lives are a gift, as is the strength to labor, not to mention the generosity of the Lord who gives us so much more than any of us could ever really deserve.
According to Jesus’ parable, the Kingdom of God is like this.
Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” O Lord; in our lives, in our relationships, in our community, in our nation, in our world. Let not your generosity to all create any envy in us. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].