Laborers in the Vineyard

There was much that Jesus taught about money and commerce in the gospels. We must keep in mind that we have been talking about kingdom parables, and therefore, as we said, the things discussed are things that occur in the kingdom. We further noted that it is unlikely that these things occur in heaven, which would lead one to conclude that the kingdom is here. 

In the parable that we are discussing here, from Matthew 20:1-8, we see this: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those, he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 

“Again, he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour, he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’”

We see the landowner who, after he hired the original group of laborers to work in his vineyard, hired others four different times that day. The first group had agreed to the payment of a denarius for the day; the second, third, and fourth for “whatever is right.” At quitting time, for whatever the reason particular to the landowner, he instructed the foreman to pay the laborers, starting with those hired last, which was his prerogative.

In 20:9-12, we see this, “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’”

The landowner, deciding to pay everyone the same amount, again, for whatever reasons that he chose, was exercising his right to do so. Those laborers, after they agreed to their wages, were thinking they were entitled to more. It is no one’s business what another person earns unless that person chooses to tell him.  More importantly, one should keep their word and honor their commitment. 

The Scriptures say a great deal about making vows and oaths, and for a good reason. It has something to do with keeping one’s word and man’s inability to keep his. While growing up, people often emphasized that one is only as good as his word. Jesus, in His sermon on the mount, said to let ones yes be yes and his no, no – that anything beyond these was of evil (Matthew 5:33-37). James, the brother of our Lord, said the same, and in doing so, said it was in order that we would not fall under judgment (James 5:12). 

So, instead of graciously taking what they agreed to, the laborers grumbled to the foreman about what the others made. They were busybodies. As long as the landowner did not coerce them into agreeing to an unfair wage, they had no cause for argument, and their grumblings were only of envy. 

Then, from 20:13-16, we see this: “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ So the last shall be first, and the first last.” 

There is much to learn from that passage that we need to apply today. The man stated that he was doing them no wrong, and he pointed out to those grumbling that he paid them to what they agreed. He said to them that he wished to pay the last the same as what he paid them, stressing the point that it was lawful for him to do what he pleased with what was his, and because he was generous he chose to do what he did. They were only envious, and he said that it was their “eye” that was so. 

Were they not judging him, another frowned-upon trait? Here is what Jesus said about judging others: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; andby your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

So Jesus, in His opening remarks in the Sermon on the Mount, called people such as them hypocrites who “looked” with envy upon others. That is why, in our parable, the landowner asked rhetorically if the laborer’s eye was envious for simply exercising his generosity. People should mind their own instead of others’ business. That has led to today’s false claims of “income inequality,” which is a bogus, straw man argument borne out of sloth and envy. 

Those that have-not, and the ones who advocate for them, demand that those that have much must give to them who have-not even if those who have-not choose not to do for themselves. We, the taxpayer in America, do more for the needy, here and abroad, than any nation ever has. It is out of greed, envy, and ignorance that those who yell the loudest demand that what they themselves do not own must be given to those who choose not to strive for themselves. They are busybodies that should mind their own business and do for themselves first – take the log out of their own eye. Then they would be in a position to help others – to take the speck out of their brother’s eye, instead of minding everyone else’s business. 

King Solomon, the son of David and the wisest man who ever lived and whom God entrusted to build His house, the first Temple, said this: “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new?’ Already it has existed for ages which were before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).

Today’s advocates of socialism in America, attempting to destroy capitalist America and redistribute the wealth of those who have to those who have not, are either ignorant of the evils of socialism or are evil themselves by trying to make America socialist. If they believe that their version of socialism is different and better than what has been tried previously, they are deluding themselves. The best way to help those in need is by lifting oneself up first so that then he can help those in need. That takes a sense of self-worth and motivation. There is nothing new under the sun.

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