The Parable of the Eccentric Employer: A Meditation

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Matthew 20: 1-16
The parable is a story about equal pay for unequal work. Jesus, of course, is not talking about a “Just Wage” but about the generosity and goodness of God. “The rewards of the Kingdom of God,” he is saying, “are not measured on merit but by need.” God treats sinners – that is, all of us – as the overly generous employer in the parable treats the unemployed workers.

The parable, therefore, goes to the heart of a very human attitude that is in conflict with God’s generous nature; the attitude that everything is on merit. You get what you deserve, no more, no less. While this attitude certainly applies to certain areas of life, as far as Jesus is concerned, it most certainly does not apply to our relationships with God or people. Furthermore, there are absolutely no exceptions allowed.
It would appear that in the Kingdom of God, when it comes to evaluating what a person should receive, merit does not apply. Everything is a gift. Generous giving and no counting the cost. At the heart of the gospel message is the idea that at the heart of life there is gift – not something earned – not something we build for ourselves – but something given. The free gift of life, creation and the free gift of God in his son, Jesus.

The consequences of this outlook are far-reaching: if my life is a gift then I must welcome it with joy and gratitude. If everything is gift, then the universal rule is giving. Earning counts for nothing. My relationships with God and with others are about giving and not about measuring love, affection and forgiveness in terms of merit.

Father David +