|Camille Pisarro -- Workers in the Fields|
- 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?
These questions have familiar religious parallels. If the redemption of the world is universal and includes everyone who repents, this means that repentance wipes out past sins. However wicked anyone has been, it doesn't matter in the end. But can it be just for God to treat cheats, child abusers, serial killers and terrorists in the same way as those who have been decent Christians -- or just decent citizens -- 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?
|Feast of the Redeemer - Maurice Prendergast|
Knowledge of our own salvation, then, should dispel any envious glances we might be tempted to cast at those who ‘got away with it’. Are the years they lived in selfishness, dishonesty or cruelty a way of life we would have chosen, if only we had known that we could be forgiven just before death? What kind of life 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?