A few crumbs …“Did you not agree with me for a denarius a day?”
For the casual reader there seems to be a natural injustice in this parable. Some men have labored twelve hours, right through the day, and received their pre-agreed wage, a denarius. Others joined the working day at later hours with the last only contributing a mere hour’s effort. They also received a denarius. The first workers were indignant!
Understanding the story requires we grasp the motivation behind the different laborers. The first negotiated and contracted their efforts for the day. They may have even benchmarked their terms against the market price. The latter workers joined the labor-pool with the simple assurance that what was right would be paid to them. They were motivated by different considerations. Trust and gratitude towards the master, and a sense of satisfaction at being gainfully employed, were their guiding stars. Even the last conscripted workers accepted the precept that reimbursement would be appropriate given the shortness of the day. Gratitude and a sense of meaning sent them into the fields when others were thinking of going home.
In the light of the denarius the late workers received, the early workers felt they were in for a special bonus. What an eye opener to only receive for what they had been contracted. How indignant they were. You have made them equal to us! The parable is a picture of those who labor in God’s house and those who serve. The former contracted their labor for time and conditions (one denarius). The latter served by faith and with gratitude at the opportunity to be employed. The first received exactly what they asked for, the rest expressed trust and faith in the master and received far more than they expected.
When our involvement in the kingdom becomes obligatory and dutiful, we are prone to see things in terms of getting and giving, and the pay-off must be worthwhile. We see what we have and what we can get, instead of being amazed by the extravagance of the One we serve. Like the brother of the prodigal son, we become blind to the goodness of the Father; our lives are consumed with duty rather than the opportunity for amazement. We get what we asked for. God is no man’s debtor. He settles His undertakings.
However the Christian message is about relationship, far more than obligation and duty. Consequently there is a different rule of measurement and reward in God’s Kingdom. The measure has to do with faith and gratitude in Him. It’s about finding our satisfaction in doing His will and leaving the question of reward and recognition in His capable and generous hands.
Then like Ruth we find ourselves being woven into a destiny larger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. “Ruth begat Jesse and Jesse begat David the king!” Rick Mullins, the late Christian musician, captured it well when he penned, “What I’d settled for You have blown so far away, What you have brought me to I thought I could not reach”. Drop your ‘requirements’ and ‘expectations’ and with gratitude, delight in the chance to build the eternal. “God who is mighty has done great things for me” proclaimed the Psalmist. May that be your experience, but more importantly, your joy!Steve