Christianity 201

June 25, 2015

When the Parables Come Home to Roost

“And I remembered the word of the Lord…”  Acts 11:16a

Many of us who grew up in church learned the various parables and teachings of Jesus and then simply filed them away in the back of our minds somewhere. However, there are times when things happen in life and you find yourself saying; “Oh, so that’s what Jesus was talking about!”

So it was with me this week, with the parable of the wages.

Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This week I found myself in a situation where I assumed that somebody was receiving a whole lot of money that, as it turns out, was not the case. It took about 24 hours, but in the in-between time I was feeling both bitter and angry. In the parable above, it’s a story about someone getting eleven-times the amount. The workers in the early morning, or the first hour (sunrise or about six in the morning) are paid the same as those as those hired late in the day (or five in the afternoon).

In my story, the person was claiming to be the beneficiary of an amount about five hundred times more than I was paid for a similar project with the same employer. I knew that the situation was more complex than that, but the economies of scale were completely out of line with a more meager amount I had agreed for doing something similar.

And there’s the key phrase: I had agreed.

Tempering all my frustration was the parable from Matthew 20, parked in the back of my mind. I had agreed. The workers in the parable cried, ‘Unfair!’ But I had agreed. The landowner finds himself in a position to be generous with those who had been waiting to work but were not hired. (Interesting to note that they were still available for work, they hadn’t given up and gone home even thought it was 5:00 PM.) I had agreed. The employer in my story has restructured some of their affairs and perhaps now is in a better position to be more generous. I had agreed.

In the end, the other person in my story is probably considered more qualified, deemed to have paid more dues and has more platform.

And in the end, as it turns out, they are not on the receiving end of anything close to five hundred times the amount I was paid.

The parable suddenly jumped from a back-of-mind story to something with immediate relevance to my life; my world.

The parables do that. The teachings of Jesus do that. The words of scripture do that. In the full verse of Acts 11:16 (above) Peter specifically remembers something that Jesus has said and quotes the passage. Here’s the full context.

At C201 we put scripture verses in green to remind us that, just like a branch that is alive is green inside, so it is that the scriptures have life.

Watch out for those Bible passages you filed away in your memory bank a long time ago. When you’re feeling angry, or frustrated, or bitter, or disappointed; the parables suddenly spring to life. They come back to humble you, to correct you, to lead you to healthier thinking, to spur you to right actions.

All scripture is God breathed