“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’
When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
It seems so unfair that the latecomers earned the same as the early birds. The injustice! That’s our human nature reaction. “I’m being cheated; someone else is getting a greater share than I!” Scripture scholar Nicholas King, SJ, proposes a possible response to these emotions. “God is utterly generous (generosity is the quality that defines God), and we do not lose out because God has been equally generous to those undeserving people next door”.
This parable will always remain something of a stumbling block if our hearts are not in line with the heart of Jesus. Apparent inequality will always smack of injustice unless we believe in God’s generosity and overflowing compassion. The Lord sees how little we deserve, but he wants to hold nothing back, if only we open our hands to receive.
—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.
Prayer for Generosity
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.
—St. Ignatius of LoyolaPlease share the Good Word with your friends!