A fair contract
The tale begins at a Sunday evening church service.
We entered the story in Matthew chapter 20, verses 1-16. A story commonly referred to as the parable of the workers.
In paraphrase, there is a master who employs some labourers to work in his vineyard for the day. He leaves his house early in the morning to hire the labourers, offering to pay them a denarius for a day’s work.
The early morning labourers agree and begin working in the vineyard.
As the day progresses, the master continues to hire labourers to work in his vineyard. Labourers from midday through to the evening agree with the master’s request.
The master offers to pay each worker whatever is right.
At the end of the day the master asks for the labourers in order of last up to first to approach so they may receive their rightful payment.
The labourers hired in the evening received a denarius.
The labourers hired midday received a denarius.
Finally, those who had toiled since early morning also received a denarius.
Equal pay for all!
Even, for the lazy workers who turn up at the last minute. Admittedly, this arrangement does not seem fair.
Upon receiving their payment, the early morning workers grumble at the master. The master responds, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew chapter 20, verse 15)”
The tale concludes with the realisation that I too begrudge generosity.
We were asked that Sunday evening which of the labourers we felt we were.
My answer came easily – I am the early worker.
In my vanity and self-professed righteousness, I declared that I was the worker who had toiled all day. Yet, I had received the same reward as someone who waltzed in at last minute to claim the prize.
My thoughts flicked back to every group work assignment I had undertaken. Thoughts of spending hours and hours studying so that I may receive a good grade when others seem to easily wing their exams.
I felt resentment toward the master in the parable as I demanded justice for the early workers.
Justice for myself.
However, that Sunday the pastor gently reminded us that we are all the labourers hired last.
How can that be?
The answer is simple. Yet, utterly understanding it is not.
Through reading Romans chapters 4-5, we may gain a better understanding of the parable of the workers discussed in Matthew chapter 20, verses 1-16.
For many of us, albeit those of the older generation may feel more so, we have spent our lives in waiting for the return of Christ. However, there is someone who has been waiting longer than us – Abraham.
The promise given to Abraham that through his faith, he would be counted as righteous. Yet, like so many others, Abraham did not see the fulfilment of all that God had promised.
In Hebrews chapter 11, verse 39, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.”
Since the time of Abraham, generations have patiently waited for the fulfilment of the promise, now manifested in Christ. Yet, in 2020 we can still take refuge in the knowledge given to us in Romans chapter 5, verse 8, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Maybe it is a good thing that life’s not fair because if it was, none of us would receive that has been offered in Christ for over two thousand years and is still offered today.
“For He says, ‘In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favourable time; now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 2).”
Kiwi-born with British roots, Jessica Gardiner drinks tea religiously while her dinner table discussions reverberate between the sovereignty of God, global politics, and the public health system. Having experienced churches from conservative to everything but, Jessica writes out a desire for Christian orthodoxy and biblical literacy in her generation. Jessica is married to fellow young writer Blake Gardiner.