Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16
Verse 21: You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.
Today’s parable is challenging. It has been prompted by Peter asking Jesus what the disciples will receive for following Jesus. After all, they left everything behind to follow. Peter’s question is prompted by the response Jesus gave to the rich young man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. If we recall, the young man went away sad because Jesus asked of him more than he could give at the time. Peter is told by Jesus that they will be by His side in eternity. In fact, Jesus says that all who leave things or people behind will inherit eternal life. Jesus ends this response with, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first”. From here, Jesus tells today’s parable.
In short, workers are hired throughout the day to come to the vineyard to help with the harvest. The owner of the vineyard promises each of them the same thing: a fair wage. They work and line up at the end of the day to receive their pay. Some had worked all day, some just an hour. The last are paid first and all receive the same pay: a denarius. Those who worked the longest are upset, saying to the owner: “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day”. The landowner responds with this: “Or are you envious because I am generous”?
In life, Christians come to faith at different stages in life, each joining in in the building of the kingdom. The Lord of the harvest promises the same reward to each of them: eternal life. They go to work and then line up for the reward at the end of their lives. Some labor for all if their lives, some for just a short time. The lifers and the new converts receive the same pay. Those who have been faithful all of their lives can be tempted to say, “Lord, you have made that person who just accepted you equal to us who have served you all of our lives”? The Lord of the harvest will respond with words of grace and love and invitation.
Yes, God loves us all. He loves the saints and the sinners. He loves the saved and the lost. Heaven rejoices each time a lost soul becomes a part of the family. His grace is sufficient for us all, whenever and however we come to faith. The promise is the same: love God and claim eternal life. Thanks be to God!