Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Gospel passage is taken from Matthew, Chapter 20

If taken literally, the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard would likely raise the hackles of any business person, whether in the corporate or not-for-profit world. This parable is certainly not about a fair wage or just recompense for work. In fact, it goes against our sensibilities about what is just and fair, and this is a danger for any of us hearing the parables and trying to make sense of them as twenty-first century Christians. Matthew writes for a mixed congregation that includes both Jewish Christians of long standing (who may have known Jesus personally) and others who have joined recently, many of whom are Gentile converts. Regardless of this, Matthew speaks to the main question of God’s relationship to Israel, as well as the constant struggle between religious people who see themselves as doing the lion’s share of God’s work and those who do not seem to carry their weight. What we learn from this parable is that the landowner begins by giving everyone in the story work. They all begin in the same situation but easily forget by the end of the day where they started. Their energy goes not to the fact that they have had work and are being paid but to the inequity they see. Envy becomes more important than what they have received. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ asks the landowner. How easily we can relate to the grumbling of the labourers who assumed that because they went into the vineyard early in the day, they would be paid more. Do we find ourselves envious of another’s gifts, talents, abilities, possessions, social status, and so forth? How often are we envious of others’ good fortune? Are we unable to celebrate another’s good fortune because we have not celebrated our own? How often are we ungrateful for God’s graciousness and mercy? How often do we deny God’s love and forgiveness in our own lives? Jesus leaves us with a question: can we learn to see through the eyes of God?  You and I are invited and challenged to look at where we see ourselves in Jesus’ parable.