By Carol Younger
We know this gospel parable too well. Often, we listen with one ear closed, oblivious to its focus on the landowner. The landowner goes out in the morning, hires idle workers, and the workers go to his vineyard. We hardly notice that it is His vineyard they will be working in. He hires all day. Hardly noticing that it is He who is watching for anyone who may be idle and need the grace of a job and salary, we hear he hires anyone who wants or needs work into His vineyard. It is His desire that no one be idle, no one wanting a place in his vineyard be left out. There is work enough for all. Honorable work, real stuff to do: dress the vines, feed the vines, and gather the grapes, more than just one day’s work, fellowship with other workers, and lifetime “job security” with eternal reward after.
Trouble comes at first day’s end, however, when the early workers begin to compare their recompense with those brought in at the last hour. Surely, their sense of justice should be served. Those who worked harder, longer, under more difficult conditions should be paid more, right? No, not with this landowner. With this Landowner God, generosity is the rule by which He pays His workers. His money and His care tumble from His Hands and Heart into the lives of His hirelings. He sees their needs, as well as the needs of His Vineyard. Not one hireling should leave with only what he worked for by clock. And the vineyard needs the skills of all hirelings and at just the right hours. And so, the early birds in the vineyard, once grateful and excited to be included in the vineyard at beginning of day, become grumblers.
There are so many lessons here in this parable, pointed just at me (or maybe you?). Many of those lessons I learned before. I need to review my Scripture lesson book.
- Am I one of the idle ones hoping to spend my gifts (which come from Him) in the kingdom?
- Have I expressed my gratitude that God has invited me to serve in the vineyard of the Church?
- When hired, do I give my best all the day, even in the heat and length of hours? Or do I look over my shoulder to see what everyone else is doing, instead of focusing on the task given me by Jesus? (I need to remember my task is designed exactly for my talents, skills and my life’s hour.)
- When others come to help in the tasks of the kingdom, do I welcome them, or judge them as late-comers to the mission of Jesus? What am I doing evaluating them and the task they have, instead of focusing on mine?!
- Do I rejoice as consolation and grace are generously given other hirelings? Or, do I compare their gifts with my own and think my own gifts from God less than I think they should be? Comparison is a thief of joy, and a destroyer of gratitude and prayer.
I mumble my answers to these questions to myself, realizing again how far I am from Jesus’ command: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I must open my heart wider for the graces He offers me each day in His vineyard. I can do so much better; I have a whole cloud of witnesses and saints ready to help and strengthen me!
Jesus, I trust in your will for me, help my lack of trust.
About the author:
Dr. Carol Younger – A Senior Fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Advisory Board Member for the Great Adventure Bible Studies, author of Listening and Study Guides for biblical and theological presentations through St. Joseph Communications, author of the Retreat Companion for 33 Days to Morning Glory through Marian Press. An accomplished leader in public and private education and a popular adjunct professor at an evangelical Christian university in Southern California. Active in many parish ministries, including RCIA and Catechetical training.