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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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)

Think of a time when you gave your greatest effort to a team project. Some team members probably put in more time or work than others; feelings of competition or resentment may have arisen.

Today’s scripture triggers some of those frustrating emotions. The laborers who arrived early received their pay for a full day’s effort, but those who arrived at the last hour received an equal amount for much less effort. At first thought, this seems unfair and unreasonable to the laborers who gave several more hours of their time and energy.

The story becomes a bit more complex when the laborer asks why the latecomers were idle all day. They respond, “Because no one hired us.”

Who are these laborers hired in the eleventh hour? In scripture, these individuals would probably be undesired workers—perhaps elderly, having a physical disability, or even ostracized by certain communities due to their heritage.

However, the laborer employs and rewards these individuals for the work they were able to contribute, regardless of the limited time spent in the vineyard. They not only answered the call for service, and knew they had worth to contribute, but the laborer validated their worth justly and generously.

Similarly God welcomes everyone into the “vineyard” if they are willing to answer that invitation and give whatever energy (faith) they have. God’s generosity is boundless, and God does not judge when we answer that invitation, but is thrilled to have us respond “yes.” In the same way, we must remember our brothers and sisters are welcome to that invitation, and our own patience and generosity with their efforts must be abundant in grace.

Generous God, thank you for welcoming me when I’m eagerly ready and welcoming me when I have resisted your loving invitations. Let me follow in your grace and share an open heart with my sisters and brothers in Christ. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens, Director,
Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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