Text: Matthew 20:1-16
For those who feel far away from the King of Glory
To develop a generous heart
For those who work the fields
THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST AND THE FIRST LAST. One of Jesus’ most famous, most unnerving and yet most comforting proverbs, it shows how Jesus is in alignment with the priorities of the God of Israel. The God who rescued Israel from bondage down in Egypt has a special regard for the poor and needy, the little, the least and the left out. The ethical instruction God gives to the people through Moses is chock-a-block full of admonishments to provide for the poor, to defend those without a defender (widows and orphans) and to welcome those who are far from home (the sojourner). God calls his people to generosity!
This parable Jesus tells is about God’s generosity, but it is also about us. It is very, very important to remember that the wage paid to the group that began the day in the vineyard is a fair wage for a day’s work. Those who started the day have no need to grumble—except for their envy of those who came last. They have no claim on the owner’s property yet speak as if they do.
When you read the parable, with whom do you sympathize? Do you gravitate toward those who began the day and are dumbfounded at the “good fortune” of those who arrived late? We want to think of ourselves as being in the know, as pulling our weight, as making a contribution—as earning our position. But consider those who arrive at the end. Is it possible that they have wanted to be in the know, to have a chance to pull their weight, to make a contribution? How hard it is to sit with that unease, watching the day goes by, seeing the shadows begin to lengthen, and realizing that today is not your day. You wonder if you missed out on an opportunity, on something important, but have no idea what to do about it. So, you stand there until someone finds you and invites you to come, be a part of something that matters.
And at the end of it all your hand is filled. Are you disappointed, or jubilant?
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks