Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Matthew 20:1-2 -- On God's Payment

"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard."
Matthew 20:1-2

These are the first two verses of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  These verses show that the first laborers agreed on a price, and went out to work in the householder's vineyard.  The parable goes on to show that the householder continued to hire people throughout the day, even some people at the very end of the day who only worked for an hour.  And then he paid them all, from the people who had worked the shortest time up to the people who had worked the longest.  And he paid them all the same.
It's an interesting story, and often in thinking of wages or prestige, we think about how unfair that is... yeah, if we came in during the first hour, sure we agreed that was a fair price, but after seeing everyone else paid the same, it now seems unfair.  We're totally not here to discuss labor and employment issues, but if we think about it instead from God's perspective, I think it makes more sense, and it helps us to consider building Zion... reaching for that perfect society where there are no poor among us.  If we work for a whole day and get a fair wage and are able to feed our families, is it really a bad thing that the other people are able to feed their families as well?  And if we are talking about salvation... Are we upset when we have kept the commandments for longer and then someone rises out of the gutter, turns around his life, and gets to partake of salvation as well?  Like the story of the prodigal son, shouldn't we rejoice instead that our brother has come back to us? :)
I think sometimes we are resentful.  We wish we could live it up for most of our lives, try all those bad things, and then repent on our deathbeds, and still be saved.  But when we focus on the timing, I think we are missing the point.  The timing mattered so much to those first people, but the point is that we are trying to build a community of people who love each other and who are working towards each other's salvation.  If one of those last people were our sibling or significant other, would we still feel cheated, or would we be grateful that they made it, late or not?  And truthfully, if we had tried all those bad things, could we even be certain that we would have made it back at all?  Do we even know for certain that in terms of this parable we aren't the ones that came at the very end?
We're all different people, with different challenges.  If we find a way to come to an understanding with God, and find salvation... that gift is beyond price.  We could work for 90 billion years in the vineyard and not deserve it.  Truthfully, the difference between working all day and working one hour is meaningless when we consider God's generosity.  Today, let's be thankful to God for allowing us to learn, and work, and find our way, and let's try not to be resentful of others who seem to have a better deal.  Likely, they have just as many challenges, but they are ones that we don't recognize as easily as our own.  Let's be grateful to God and rejoice when anyone repents, and let's do some repenting of our own, so that we will all be able to be saved, together.

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