Matthew 20:1-16 Reflection: The Parable of the Vineyard Workers

A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
1 “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’
5 So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
8 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.’
9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.
10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,
12 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.’
13 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?
14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
15 Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’
16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Reflection: God’s Compassion

Good News: God give to us our daily need out of His generosity.

The gospel passage above is one of the most disconcerting parables of Jesus. For those who are fighting for workers’ right, what the landowner did in this story is considered undemocratic and totally unjust. Yet the scripture tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

The workers who started earlier have the right to complain but they are thinking from their perspective. From the landlord’s point of view (God’s point of view), there is no injustice because he kept his promise to pay what had been agreed beforehand. He was just compassionate to the others who had no work and therefore nothing to feed their families.

There are several points to consider from this parable.
1) God is calling each one of us to work in His vineyard. There is so much to be done. Are you available?
2) God does not like people to be idle. He wants us to value work.
3) God does not reward us according to the length of time we have been serving Him. In other words, it is not how long we are with our respective communities but how we have been faithful in following Him. Thus, those who just joined our church may be considered holier than those who have been with the community for decades.
4) Most people grumble a lot because they always compare themselves with others. “Why is my neighbor more successful than me?” is their usual question.
5) The compassion of God trumps our concept of justice in the same manner that love often complicate things.

Some Questions for Discussion or Meditation
1. For employers, how do you treat your workers? For the workers, have you experienced any injustice in the workplace? How do you feel about it? Do you discuss any problem in the workplace in a loving manner?
2. For workers, have you been honest with your time in the workplace?
3. Is there anything you can do to help the unemployed? Did you ever pray for people who have lost their job?
4. Do you often argue with other people on who is right and who is wrong? What is just and what is unjust? Does it help?
5. Do we entrust to God all our problems say, a higher salary, a generous employer, hardworking employees?
6. Are you grateful for your job or business? Are you contended with your income?
7. Do you share your time, talent, and treasure for the Kingdom of God without asking for payment or reward?

Gospel Reading and Reflection
Gospel Reading and Reflection

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