What’s the Story – Parable of the Workers

Unless I miss my guess, this is the first parable that we’ve looked at since we started this project. For more info on parables in general, take a look at yesterday’s post.

Though the meaning that Jesus has in mind here might be a little obscure -nore on that in a minute – the setting and drama of this parable is one that we are all probably familiar with. This is a story of day-labor, the hiring of temporary workers for a specific task with no ongoing commitment ot employment. Evidentally, this was as common in Jesus’ time as it is in ours. Rather than going down to the interstate overpass, though, the owner of the vineyard went down to the marketplace. Rather that driving by in his pick-up truck, I’m assuming he walked.

Apart from those differences, though, I think the action of the story is pretty straight forward. The man hires three seperate groups of workers at three times of day. He negotiates a rate with each (it turns out to be the same for all) and, in paying them, uncovers some dissent. Those who have worked longer feel they deserve more. But, everyone gets paid the same. The owner claims his rite to do what he pleases with his things and sends the disgruntled workers away with a lesson in economics.

But what is our lesson? It kind of depends on where you see yourself in the story.

In it’s original context, Jesus seems to offer the story as a critique of the Jews of his day. These are the folks that God (usualy a good pick for the identity of any ‘landowner’ in any parable) chose to be his co-workers long ago. They have born the ‘heat’ of wandering and exile and are more than a little put out that God, in Jesus, seems to be offering any- and everyone equal share in the blessings of God’s favor. Given this understanding of the metaphor, we should probably be grateful, for no matter what our current age, we are all relative latecomers to the family of God.

But there may be something else, too. Is it possible that we could be the “earlier” workers? Perhaps. I guess it depends on whether or not we have ever looked down our noses at folks who have come to faith later in our life and thought, “Well, they haven’t paid their dues! How can God be OK with them?” I know I’ve been guilty of this pattern of thought on more than one occassion. Maybe I’m the one that needs the lessoon in divine economics.

Do you see yourself in the parable anywhere? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

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