The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) reveals God’s enormous and boundless generosity, infinite mercy and kindness beyond imagination. It is a lesson on grace because only God’s grace makes real love possible. It is a movement from fairness to justice and then to love. God has a special concern for the needy, the weak, the lost, the poor, the unwanted and forgotten in our society.
The parable presents two major parts. First is the hiring of the workers and second is the paying of the workers. The landowner represents God and the workers represent all of us. The landowner hires everyone in sight because God wants us to work in His vineyard as His collaborators. He chooses to work in partnership with us. The second part is the paying of the vineyard where the workers are paid the same wages for unequal work. Sounds like unfair labor practice. That is why the workers who were hired at dawn complained. “These last ones worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” (Mt. 20:12) They were envious and upset.
What is the point of the parable? Wage is not based on merit nor on length of service but on God’s generosity and love. He rewards us beyond our imagination. We are called to surrender ourselves unreservedly to His service and trust in His reward because the ultimate reward of faithful discipleship is eternal life. We are better off with grace than with justice because if God gives us what we deserve we would never enter His kingdom.