The Vineyard and the Marketplace

In Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 20:1-16, we find multiple characters: the house master, the laborers, and the manager (foreman). There are two settings: the vineyard and the marketplace. There are several elements to the story: specific times of the workday, the movement between the vineyard and the market, and the amount of payment received by the workers at the end of the day. The house master needs workers for his vineyard. He goes to the market at 6:00am to hire laborers for the day. Everyone is in agreement about the remuneration (a denarius, which is good pay for a day’s work). He then returns four more times to hire more workers (9:00am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm and 5:00pm). The day ends at 6:00pm, so some of the workers only work for an hour. For these the wage is not specified, only that they would be paid “whatever is right.” They must have considered the owner trustworthy. Everyone gathers at the end of the day to receive their pay. The foreman is instructed to pay them in the reverse order in which they were hired, the last first and the first last. Each one, regardless of the amount of time worked, was paid a full day’s wage. Those hired first, who worked the entire day, begin to complain about the fairness of this action.

Jesus tells us that this story contains elements that describe the kingdom of heaven. The house master treats some justly, others he treats with mercy, but no one is dealt with unjustly. The complaints by some of the workers are based upon subjective, emotional, and selfish perception. The landowner is generous to every worker in the story.

People enter the kingdom at different times, but all receive the same and equal benefits, including personal significance and dignity. Let the justice and the goodness of God be celebrated!