Pastor’s Corner – September 24, 2023

Workers at the Vineyard 

The gospel of Matthew tells a story of laborers at the vineyard hired by a landowner at different times but all given the sage day’s wage. The kingdom of heaven is like this landowner the story claims. Much of the interpretation is read as an allegory, that is the landowner is God who graciously gives to all regardless how long they labored in the field, all given the same pay. The ones who started early in the morning expected more since the ones who worked only a few hours got full day’s pay. Landowner’s generosity is divisive, creating envy among the workers. Jesus then points out that the last shall be first and first, last. The concluding remarks feel esoteric and confusing, point being what we expect and the reality of God is different. Preachers have used this story to subvert privileges of first comers and in God’s kingdom those who showed up last equality shares God’s abundance and grace. 

While this classic interpretation may be on the surface what we need to hear, given that parables are meant to upend our worldview, if we take the story at face value without allegorizing it, we can examine it more critically as it mirrors reality of many in our world who live on minimum wage or many who work as a day laborer or what often now these days refer to as “platform workers” who are considered “independent contractors” utilizing digital platforms such as Uber and the likes. The biblical world of day laborers and today’s laborers are seen as expendable as commodities and there is plenty of supply of laborers!  Seen from this perspective, how are we to interpret this coming Sunday’s story of the workers in the vineyard? 

Is it possible to see the kingdom of heaven as a place where people are paid a living wage as human beings with all the basic rights we cherish? What kind of system creates people to be in an “idle” position waiting to be hired and how does the distribution of wealth divide the community? What can be done to close the gap between those who have and those who have not, between landowner and laborers, to create justice and peace in our world? I invite you to thought provoking meditation on the gospel reading this Sunday! May God give you the grace and peace we need today. Amen. 

Pastor Dae