Sunday, July 06, 2014

Workers in the vineyard

The parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16 makes no economic sense, and it would tend to annoy the people you would want to have working for you tomorrow. Jesus used it to emphasize “The last shall be first and the first last,” but in what seems to be a rather trivial way. I suppose it is a good rule that if Jesus says something that looks trivial or nonsensical, I should try to figure out what I’m missing.

In Matthew 19:21 He tells a man “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Sounds like leaving everything behind to become an apostle is the epitome of completion (also see Mary and Martha and dinner prep). In Luke 9:59-62 He calls people to ignore burial responsibilities and not look back for anything.

On the other hand, in Mark 5:18-20 the previously possessed man who begs to follow Jesus is told no: his job is to stay where he is and tell his story.

Further, in Matthew 10:40-42 Jesus says that merely receiving a prophet as such will receive a prophet’s reward. That starts to sound a lot like the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

Perhaps 1 Corinthians 12 ties it together: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” The reward of the apostle John is also the reward of the healed demoniac, not because each is given the same thing, but because they share together in the same body. Which leads to interesting possibilities with "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary."

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Evangelicals have stressed the "never too late to get saved" aspect of this, but I think that is narrow. (True, but narrow.)

I believe the lack of economic sense and the seeming unfairness of it was the hyperbole Jesus used to get their attention. He declares that the Kingdom of God is not to be earned, it is given. It may also be directed more at the usual bunch of complainers who hung around finding fault than at the poor in spirit. The latter might be grateful to hear about coming in late and being welcomed. But the point may have been the former, who believed they had already put in most of a day's work and were expecting to be most important.

It may also be a foreshadowing of Gentiles coming into the fold.