Wednesday, May 5, 2010
THE PARABLE OF THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD
The crowd paves a narrow pathway for Andy, the self-appointed leader to inch through. The sturdy and maverick worker has joined the textile factory for many years. Although he is not so much a people person but he gets the job done. Lately, he has been complaining about being underpaid for all his worth.
Andy then motions for silence. “Mr. Shane, we demand an explanation for increasing the workforce when the company is not even expanding its business,” he clarifies angrily with the owner accompanying with loud yeses from the unruly demonstrators. “Our bonuses are getting lesser as more are called to work here. We have not seen much increase of our salary over the years,” Andy continues with his clear booming voice.
The always well-mannered bespectacled owner pats Andy’s shoulder to calm him down. He steps backward and gestures the crowd to stop hounding him. “Alright now,” Mr. Shane raises his voice. “You all should know the economic condition of our town. Many people need jobs to feed their families and let us be generous to them, shall we?” he adds with deep compassion.
“We can’t please everyone. Those who put in the effort here must be compensated accordingly,” Andy shoots back confidently. Loud cheers can be heard, approving the words of their leader. “You should know by now that your factory is sustained by all these workers who have worked hard for you,” he fires another bullet to his argument, gesturing to the crowd.
Meanwhile, Tommy watches from the other side decides to call the rest of the workers to protest against Andy and the uncompromising group. “I think we should be grateful that we still have jobs,” Tommy shouts across to the crowd. “We should be thankful to Mr. Shane for employing us.”
“Hey, Tommy, shut up!” a man shouts back. The tense atmosphere almost turns chaotic. Mr. Shane waves frantically to calm the situation but to no avail. He decides to throw a small sewing machine onto the floor, tearing it apart, successfully getting everyone’s attention.
“Enough!” the Boss thunders. “All these years, have I ever cheated on you guys? Have I not paid you on time? Did I not encourage you and give you leave when someone from your family needed help or was sick? Tell me, if I ever being tough on you?” he mutters frustratingly. “I treat you like family,” Mr. Shane adds, sensing anger rising from within him.
He goes into the office and takes out a stack of files. “You know what is inside of these files, guys?” he asks them. “It’s all the contracts you signed with me. Many of your contracts with me are almost completed waiting for renewal. Do you want me to be calculative with you?”
“You know what, Andy? Your contract expires tomorrow.”
The parable of the workers in the Vineyard is found only in Matthew 20:1-16.
At first look, the landowner seems to be unfair to some workers who toiled the whole day only to get the same pay as those who worked an hour. What if they have not known what is being given to the workers who only worked one hour? Surely they will be satisfied with their pay and perhaps thank God for the owner for such integrity. When they know about it, they begin to demand for more. They have lost sight of being grateful in getting work and pay to feed their family. Not only they have forgotten to thank the owner for giving them the work, they complain and accuse him of being unfair.
During the Harvest time in Jesus’ days, many day-workers will line themselves up on the streets waiting to be called to work in the Vineyard. Normally the strong ones will be hired while some return with no work, thus having difficulty to feed their families. Many plead for work while others agree to work for a little less. All these workers depend on generous land owners. Many wish they are hired by them for a longer period of time.
Jesus tells this parable in respond to the rich young man who smugly asked Him, “Teacher, what good things must I do to get eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) This man thinks he has it all! He thinks he can even perform his way to heaven! But when comes to the crunch, he deserts Jesus and walks away disgraced. Jesus must have felt sorry for him. He has so much potential yet his eyes are on material things instead on the grace of God. He fails to realise that all his riches (no one knows how he got the wealth anyway) is given by God Himself!
And the disciples fumble too when they begin to demand what they would receive after giving everything away to be with Jesus! (Matthew 19:27) This prompts Jesus to reveal blessings to those who serve God wholeheartedly but the real issue with Him is not what they get with what they do. The real reason for telling this parable is to understand the grace of God given to them and being grateful to God for His generosity.
The rich young man has a wrong attitude and so do the poor disciples. The rich man thinks he will be the first to enter God's kingdom but turns out the other way round, last, if ever. The poor disciples if not careful may be like those first workers who think they deserve a higher pay. They go away angry with the generous land owners contrary to last workers who are so grateful to being called to work because of the circumstances that they are in. The first will be last and last, first or vice versa. And hence, the parable is spoken about people who have forgotten about being grateful to God. Those first workers whose attitude is unpleasing to the landowner, cut off ties with the one who chose to bless them with work in trying times.
Do the rich people thank God for their riches today? Do the servants of God understand that it is a privilege to be given opportunity to serve the King of all kings? Let the sons and daughters of the gracious King be thankful for their salvation and be appreciative of the call of God to serve. Let us also rejoice when others are blessed by the generous God too.
Next: The parable of the Two Sons