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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 20:1–16

 “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.” (NRSV)


In a modern world where we’re told to succeed and get ahead by putting in extra hours, we may often find ourselves feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. We were sure that, with the sacrifice of our personal time, staying up late and getting to the office extra early, we’d come out on top. I’ve personally been subject to this thinking for as far back as I can remember, especially when it came time for final exams in college. We expect that we’ll be rewarded even more, that the extra hours poring over tedious details will get noticed, and in the end, we submit the final product just like everyone else, but we may never see that extra acknowledgment we so often desire.

This parable calls us to higher expectations than the input of time and labor. It calls us to put forth our heart and our faith. God, the landowner, paid each of the workers equally, regardless of the hours each put in. God paid them equally based on their effort, or their heart, for the work at their hands.

It is difficult to translate modern values of productivity, efficiency, and competency to that of our faith. Just like the laborers, not all of us put in the same number of hours and tangible effort in our faith and relationship with God. But the beauty of God’s grace is that it’s always readily available to everyone, no matter if we are the first to wake up in the morning for early prayers or the last to go sleep, asking for forgiveness. God is eagerly generous to us all.


God, remind me to be present to my faith and know that your love is a perpetual gift. Help me to pause in my daily routines to put forth the effort of my heart rather than the effort of my desire to succeed by earthly means. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens, Associate Program Manager,
   Elam Davies Social Service Center


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