I looked up the definition of “parable” and what I read was that a parable was a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, theological principle or moral lesson. The definition went on to indicate that a parable was a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by their use of comparisons, or an analogy. I would like to hold up the parable located in the gospel of Matthew chapter twenty. It is the parable of the “laborers in the vineyard.”
As the story goes, Jesus is telling the listeners what the reign of the heavens is like. He tells them that a householder went forth one morning to hire workmen for his vineyard. The workmen he hires all agree to be paid one denarii. So off they go to begin their work in his vineyard. The householder goes back to the market place about nine o’clock that morning and finds others idly standing around and he hires them. He tells them when it is time to receive your wages, whatever is righteous I will give you.
The householder goes back to the market place again at noon and at three o’clock in the afternoon hiring additional workers for his vineyard telling them as well that at the end of the day whatever is righteous I will give to you. Now quitting time was at six o’clock in the afternoon but the householder goes back to the market place one more time at five o’clock, one hour before quitting time, and invites additional laborers to work in his vineyard. When six o’clock arrives the householder calls his steward to gather the workers together and pay them starting from the last to enter the vineyard to the first.
When the last hired are paid, they receive one denarii. When the workers that had been hired at six o’clock in the morning discovered that those that had only worked for one hour got paid the same amount they were going to be paid, they began to voice their disapproval thinking because they had worked all day and in the heat that somehow they would receive more than the one denarii they agreed on before they began their work. The householder reminds the workers hired at six o’clock in the morning of their agreement to work for one denarii. So he tells them that he is not being unfair and that they should take their wage payment and go their way.
The householder indicates that he is not doing anything unrighteous by paying them what they all agreed to receive. After all, he said, is it not lawful for me to do with mine what I will? For sure, this is a most interesting parable. Since Jesus is telling us what the kingdom or reign of the heavens is like, it is not plain to the casual listener. I would, however, like to offer some thoughts that surfaced recently regarding this parable in one of my early morning meditations.
In my meditation the workers who had been hired at 6 am did not realize that the denarii they were receiving was Life that is present in the kingdom of God. The vineyard was in essence God’s creation and the householder is God. Receiving Life and entering the kingdom occurs when one awakens and puts aside the ignorance of who they really are in Christ Jesus. Those hired at 6 am became distracted by those who entered the vineyard late in the day while receiving the same Life the early hirelings received. Can you imagine thinking that those who only remained in the vineyard a short time but were included and welcomed into the Kingdom of God would be considered by those who had labored in the vineyard all or most of their life to be less than?
What became overwhelming clear to me was what the early hirelings missed in their distraction. The vineyard is God’s creation. We all are laborers together no matter when we began the laboring or for how long we labored. At the end of the day they all received a denarii which represents Life and Oneness with God. To lose sight of Life and Oneness with God by thinking you should receive more because you have some sense of entitlement is a huge distraction!
I have been blessed to enter the vineyard. The longer I have been there, it seems, the more I am discovering the multiple layers of Life and Oneness with God. The paradox is certainly present. One may think that extended laboring would only be exhausting and monotonous. However, I am discovering joyful surprises in this vineyard. Because of the length of time spent there and the amazing fellow laborers I am privileged to work alongside, I am finding opportunities to learn from them and to share my joyful surprises with them and others. We are all laborers together even if one only labors for an hour. I have been privileged to witness these very special one hour laborers in the children’s hospital where I labor. Even though they only remained for an hour they made such an impression.
Be aware of distractions!