Sep 24, 2017 - Rev. Victoria Robb Powers
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We often read this story as an allegory teaching about the offensive inequality of grace – that is, whether we come to faith early or late, we all receive salvation. However, we should question any interpretation of a parable that only points to heaven or makes grace and justice seem like opposites. Perhaps this story has the power to challenge our own assumptions and show us what God is up to here and now.
The setting for this parable is the first-century world in which 5-10% of the population controlled all of the wealth and resources, leaving the vast majority of people in some degree of poverty, living and working on someone else’s land when they were able to find employment at all.
We know of people in similar situations today – you’ve seen them – the day laborers standing at the corner store or the vacant lot, waiting to be hired. Most of us have never experienced this kind of work and we read this parable as an injustice because wages should fit the hours worked.
However, from the day laborer’s point of view, the owner of this vineyard actually sees a higher justice because he knows that all these workers got up early and made it to the marketplace looking for work. Those who were hired later were not lazy, but they demonstrated their hope and stamina to wait and to work. The landowner compensates the workers based on a justice beyond simply being fair, because all of the laborers need a day’s wage to pay their family.
By showing grace to the laborers hired later, the landowner pays people what they deserve according to God’s justice, not what the world tells us that they’re owed. The story calls us to think critically about the world we have constructed and find ways to follow God’s grace and justice in our daily lives. Is this story just about grace, or is it about a just grace?
Food for Thought:
- Perhaps you feel worn down by a world that continually calls you to produce, to succeed, to work. Know today that God graciously sees your value and the justice you deserve. Take rest that you are worth much more than what you produce.
- We have all been on the side of those laborers who work all day and seem to see others rewarded for less work. Consider the heart of God in this story, and pray for the vision to see God’s justice that values all people.
- Is your life centered on just grace, or on a grace that enacts a higher justice? Consider how God may be calling you to take action for another’s justice.