Looking for Labourers

September 20, 2020 0 comments

By Elishama |

Let’s admit it. We hear this parable about the labourers in the vineyard at Sunday Mass once every three years (because it only appears in the Gospel of Matthew, and Matthew is the focus of our Sunday readings once every three years). And every time we hear it, we think the same thing: How unfair it seems! The landowner paying the labourers who worked hard all day the same wage as those who hardly worked at all! Why even bother showing up early! We are stuck on this point.

But this is not a parable about industrial relations and a just wage. It's a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. And if we look at it from that perspective, I think there are at least three important lessons that we can learn from it.

The first lesson is that God gives us many opportunities to come to Him. It is a terrible experience to look back on one’s life and realize I missed a great opportunity and that it is now too late. It will never come my way again. Whether it be a missed job opportunity, career choice, friendship, or whatever.

But God never ceases offering us opportunities to give our lives to Him. In the parable, the landowner went out no less than five times looking for labourers; from early morning till late afternoon. He spent virtually the entire day searching for them!Why is this? Because God has granted us our time on earth to come to Him and to serve Him. If we fail to take advantage of the offer when it is first given, God does not give up on us. He will try again.

Imagine if God acted like normal landowners and only went out once in the day in search of labourers: if He only gave us one chance in our lifetime to come to Him. How many of us would have missed that opportunity and been lost?

Thankfully God is not like that. And it gives us hope: not only hope for ourselves, but for our families, our friends, for everyone. God does not give up on anyone. He will continue to search them out, while there is still time, and offer more chances to come to Him. On our part, we should “seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Be ready, like the labourers, to answer His invitation.

The second lesson is that God gives us much more than we deserve. The Kingdom of Heaven is not something God owes us because of anything we have done; rather God offers it to us despite the things we have done. It is a free gift of Divine Mercy.

As one author put it: “All God gives is of grace. We cannot earn what God gives us; we cannot deserve it; what God gives us is given out of the goodness of His heart; what God gives is not pay, but a gift; not a reward, but a grace” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew).

If we want to talk solely in terms of justice, God owes us nothing. He has made this whole universe out of nothing. And everything we have comes from something God has given. So, we can make no claim on Him. He does not owe us anything; least of all eternal life with Him and a share in His divine nature.

But God offers both to us, even though we are sinners. It is what He has freely chosen to do with what belongs to Him. God owes us nothing yet He gives us everything in Jesus Christ.

Finally, the third lesson is that God is generous because God is Love. Yes, from an employer-employee viewpoint, what the landlord does in the parable seems unfair. Whoever works more should receive more than those who work less.

But the landowner is responding to the need of the workers to support themselves and their families. In those days the “usual daily wage” for a day-labourer was barely enough to get by. So, while some may have worked longer than others, all needed enough to survive. And so, out of compassion, the landlord paid them not according to what they deserved but according to their need. His generosity was a manifestation of his love. And in this He reflects God’s love for us.

God offers us a new life in Him because He loves us. And He does not begin to love us when we begin to love Him. He loves us from the beginning. That is why He is equally generous to those who come to Him early in life and those who come to Him late in life. That is why Heis willing to forgive our sins, though they may be many. Because it is not about who we are but about Who He is.

It is too easy to think of God as like us, and judge Him accordingly, forgetting that He is God. Forgetting that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Amen.

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