Jesus told his disciples this parable:
Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others
standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my
vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out
again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about
five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why
do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He
said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'
If I polled the congregation this morning, I think many, if
not most of us, would feel the first workers who worked all day and received
the same as those who worked a few hours got a lousy deal.
This story isn’t really about the workers being taken
advantage of, because they’re receiving exactly what He promised them. When we
look at this situation, it's easy to make the big mistake of judging by the
world's standards, not God's. The prophet Isaiah reminds us God does not think
This story is all about the vineyard owner’s
generosity. God’s generosity.
In this parable, the vineyard owner is God, and all of
humanity are the workers. If we judge this situation by God's standards, we
might discover that when you come to faith in God, when you enter God's
vineyard, is not the issue; the issue is how generous our God is when we do
enter his vineyard.
A few years ago, my good friend Bob O'Neill told me a story
about a friend of his. Bob was a judge, and the friend he told me about was
also a judge. Bob's friend was dying, and he was very depressed. The judge who
was passing had not been a man of faith. In fact, he was a person who had
regularly ridiculed people of faith. On his deathbed, Bob heard that his friend
was frightened. Bob O'Neil visited his friend and courageously asked his friend
how he was with God. The terminally ill man said to Bob: It’s too late for
To which Bob responded by reading his friend – this passage
– this parable from the bible. He told his friend that God doesn't care when
you enter the vineyard. The reward is the same. That day, Bob's friend
committed his life to Christ and passed on a few days later, full of joy. Bob's
courageous conversation impacted the man's whole family, who found God through their
father’s spiritual journey.
How does Jesus’ parable of the Workers apply to us today?
Look at it this way. Every Christian is a worker God calls
to labor in the vineyard of God's earthly Kingdom. Some of us were called at
birth; we are often called "cradle Catholics." And maybe some of us
workers are not carrying our workload. Perhaps this is why the vineyard owner
in the parable had to keep hiring more workers. It wasn't that he had
underestimated the size of the job. It’s just that some of the all-day workers
were not pulling their load. They were not using their talents as God had
intended that they use them. This leads us back to the fact that some
late-coming Christians are doing remarkable work in the vineyard of God's
Kingdom. Converts to the faith are often among the hardest-working members of
the Church. I think about 20% of all the deacons in San Diego are converts.
So, as we return to the altar, let us thank God for the zeal and the inspiration of those who have been called at a later hour to work in the vineyard of God’s Kingdom. And let us ask God to inspire and motivate us to join them in working harder to bring in the great harvest that is out there.
Like my friend Bob O’Neill did.
Then, in heaven, we will all rejoice together, singing the
praises of our God, who has been so merciful, forgiving, and generous.