1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for a denariusa a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12saying, ‘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.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’b 16So the last will be first, and the first last.”
A lot of what I’ve learned as the Holy Spirit has led me through scripture, is that God alone is able, necessary and pleased to be the core and fullness of my satisfaction. He has created me to desire an enjoyment and fullness only he can satiate. And as I come to know him more, Imore more deeply convinced of that truth. Conversely – when I drift away from him, and become less concerned with knowing him, and more concerned with knowingmeh self, I forget that he is the core of my desires and satisfaction – and start to think that I can define my desires on my own, and provide satisfaction for myself by entertaining those desires always which always eventuates with a sense of eternal starvation.
In the parable of the labourers pasted in above, the master is left with a handful of grumpy workers. Most commentaries I’ve read regarding this parable agree that Jesus is addressing the attitude the Israelites show toward the gospel being preached to the Gentiles which can be easily seen in the Pauline letters and Acts 15. As if the Jews were to say “we have being slogging our guts out for thousands of years trying to earn a right standing with God, and now he’s going to give it away to the Gentiles for free?” The feeling of unequal treatment is understandable from a natural perspective.
As I read the parable – I wondered how it applies to me. One commentary pointed out the correlation between the words “grumbled” in verse 11 (“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house”) and the grumbling of the elder brother from the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:28-30. Along with the grumbling – the similarity is that the elder brother had not been prodigal, disobedient and dishonoring toward his father. In fact he had remained with his father and worked the land as he was supposed to do–doing what was required to rightfully earn his inheritance . When the prodigal son returned, the elder brother was bitter because the father’s acceptance, love and lavishing behaviour over the younger son. The elder brother felt ripped off. The father’s prodigal behaviour over the younger son cheapened the work that the elder brother had put in, by showing that it is not the work that merits the fathers love or providence/inheritance at all.
The two parables working together help me to clearly see a predicament in my heart that God graciously illustrates, so that I might see it and repent. The predicament is:
I am prone to trust in the fruit of my labour to bring me the satisfaction I think my labouring deserves. But God shows that my labour is not for earning my satisfaction – but a gratuitous and cheerful response to the satisfaction he promises.
When my labour becomes a means of satisfying myself, I fail because I am unable to satisfy myself. When my labour comes from nothing but the simple joy of working with, and for my loving dad/king, I am eternally satisfied because I am trusting in him to provide what is needed for my satisfaction.
If I trust in my labour I will have emnity against the generosity of the Master/Father toward those who laboured less, or not at all, therefor robbing myself of the satisfaction he offers to me. But if I trust in the goodness of the Master/Father than I will be free to not only enjoy the satisfaction he brings to me when, but celebrate the satisfaction he brings to others who labour less than me.
To be honest, I feel like this predicament is a little easier for me than it is for others. I have not been a hard working labourer. In fact I am more like the labourer that works an hour and receives full wages, or the prodigal son, who is lavished upon despite my transgression. I can say with confidence that I feel satisfied. Even in moments of depression – my satisfaction does not diminish. In fact it is during the times of depressiwhy’s hat my satisfaction is most felt and appreciated by me. It is the moments when the world around me seems darkest, that the light in my soul seems to shine brightest and I am reminded that my joy is provided by an invincable, unchanging, loving and totally satisfying God.