Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)
Chapter 20"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Verse 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Verse 3When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; Verse 4and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. Verse 5When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. Verse 6And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' Verse 7They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.' Verse 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' Verse 9When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Verse 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. Verse 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, Verse 12saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' Verse 13But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Verse 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Verse 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' Verse 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Matthew is the only one to include the story of The Laborers in the Vineyard in his gospel. Perhaps Matthew was writing to some who seemed to be fighting over who was better and deserved greater benefits and recognition in the early church. Whatever the situation, Matthew uses this story to remind his readers that God does not follow the same rules and habits that we do. The landowner—God—pays every laborer the same because that’s the way God operates. God does not show partiality.
Matthew is reminding us of the wonder of God’s grace. God’s love for us, for everyone, is unconditional. Imagine a church in which preferences are not shown to some, where all people are welcomed and treated the same. Such a congregation could really become a priesthood of all believers.
Calling and teaching God, forgive us when we act as though the life of faith is all about us. You call us to work alongside and not over or above our fellow travelers. Guide us in your ways of truth. Amen.