|Red Vineyards at Arles -- Van Gogh (1888)|
- Exodus 16:2-15 and Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 •
- Jonah 3:10-4:11 and Psalm 145:1-8 •
- Philippians 1:21-30 •
- Matthew 20:1-16
Occasionally people have thought that this parable has direct application to the workplace, and implies that Christian bosses ought to pay their workers equally. Or they have found warrant in it for a even wider principle of Christian ethics -- one that supports equal pay for company workers. Yet, Jesus makes it plain that he is talking about ‘the Kingdom of heaven’. That is to say, his parable concerns the way God deals with us, not the way we deal with each other. Even if this is what the parable aims to illuminate, however, there still seems be a problem of interpretation. The vineyard owner says to the laborer who complains that he has worked all day. ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong’. Perhaps so, but is this a good enough answer? How can it be just to give the same reward to radically different amounts of work? Don’t the laborers who worked longer deserve more?
|Salvation -- Endre Bartos (1979)|
These questions have familiar religious parallels. Universal redemption means that past sins are wiped out. Can it be just for God to treat cheats, child abusers and serial killers in the same way as those who have been decent Christians all their lives, so long as they express repentance on their death beds? What is the point of lifelong faithfulness if it makes no difference in the end?
Knowledge of salvation, then, should dispel all envious glances at those who ‘got away with it’. How could we want more than to live ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’, and to do so for as much of our lives as possible?