You’re treating us unfairly! Matthew 20:12 (TPT)
The Workers – The Unfair Series – Part 4
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is a tale about unfairness.
I’ve always seen this story told by Jesus as a picture of his grace upon us, no matter what, no matter who.
But there’s a catch in the story. The peculiarity to this particular parable isn’t the wages paid to the workers. It’s not the first time we’ve seen in scripture where those who have worked and those who haven’t got paid the same. In 1 Sam 30, David insists that “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
This was not a new concept in Ancient Jewish life, where often was the case that the whole was considered greater than the one. In other words, they had a more corporate view of success: it’s better that everyone eats rather than one has too much while another goes hungry.
But like every society, especially those ravaged by war and oppression and injustice; infiltrated by Empire, winning and grasping and keeping and stockpiling and securing oneself before others become a normal part of life. And if we live it long enough, and buy into scarcity enough (the idea that there's only a pie’s worth of abundance to go around, so I better get as bigger piece as I can and hold onto it with all I've got…), we’ll start to believe that it’s how it all works.
This parable isn’t really about those who worked less and got paid the same. If it were, they would have been the ones to have spoken up. But Jesus highlighted the attitude of those who worked all day and got paid the same as those who joined in much later and worked much less. This parable isn’t about the unfair grace that God gives to those of us who don’t deserve it… it’s about how we feel when someone we don’t believe deserves the same as we do, get’s it all. It’s unfairness of the reverse kind.
The provocative line in this parable is:
“You’re treating us unfairly! They’ve only worked for one hour while we’ve slaved and sweated all day under the scorching sun. You’ve made them equal with us!” (Matt 20:12.)
You’ve made them equal to us.
And right there you have it. That’s where the parable hooks into my gut and twists around.
The landowner replied to their accusation and said:
“Friends. I’m not being unfair – I’m doing exactly what I said. Didn’t you agree to work for the standard wage? If I want to give those who only worked for an hour equal pay, what does that matter to you? Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Why should my generosity make you jealous of them?” (Matt 20:13-15)
They were offended by the landowner's generosity. And more specifically, because it wasn’t focused on them.
Written by Liz Milani