Matthew 20:1-16
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing to pay the workers the usual day’s wages, he sent them to work in his vineyard. About 9 a.m. he saw others standing in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘Work in my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and 3 p.m. and did the same thing. About 5 p.m. he went out and found some others standing around. He said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day long without work?’ “‘No one has hired us,’ they answered him. “He said to them, ‘Work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told the supervisor, ‘Call the workers, and give them their wages. Start with the last, and end with the first.’ “Those who started working about 5 p.m. came, and each received a day’s wages. When those who had been hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each of them received a day’s wages. Although they took it, they began to protest to the owner. They said, ‘These last workers have worked only one hour. Yet, you’ve treated us all the same, even though we worked hard all day under a blazing sun.’ “The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me on a day’s wages? Take your money and go! I want to give this last worker as much as I gave you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Or do you resent my generosity towards others?’ “In this way the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Some of Jesus’s parables begin with “The kingdom of heaven is like.” In those stories he is trying to explain the spiritual world to people in the physical world. Many of the prophets tried to do this also. Daniel dreamed of heaven as having talking leopards with four heads, rivers of fire, burning thrones and many marvellous images. (Daniel 7) Jeremiah saw almond branches and boiling pots. (Jeremiah 1) The book of John’s Revelation is full of fantastic imagery. It must be incredibly difficult to find earthly things to explain heavenly things.

Jesus’s story here, if taken literally, is an example of very poorly managed vineyard. The landowner waited too long to hire people to do the harvesting. Even when he did hire people, he failed to hire enough to get the job done and had to keep hiring more and more. And when it came time to pay them they were all paid equally. That is just bad money management. He should have paid them an hourly rate instead of a flat rate. How foolish were the workers who took a job with only the promise of, “I’ll give you whatever is right” or in some cases no promise of pay at all.

The story isn’t about the economics of earth or heaven. It is about the loving mercy of God. It makes no difference to Him if you accepted his salvation as a youth or an old person, the reward is the same.

Thank you God that you choose mercy over “fairness”.

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