Jesus is at it again!! Another knock you sideways parable is coming our way for worship on Sunday morning. (Matthew 20: 1-16. Matthew is the only Gospeller to record this parable, of the workers in the vineyard. Perhaps because it’s one of those “Listerine” parables (I got this from another blogger, who uses the term to refer to those Gospel stories, which like Listerine, are good for us, but they don’t taste so good!)
The gist of the story is that a vineyard owner hires a bunch of workers, throughout the day, and at the end of the day, he pays them all the same. The ones who worked all day “in the blistering heat” aren’t too happy, and cry “Not Fair!” The landowner gives us four answers to this.
- I paid you what we agreed to.
- It’s my money, I can do with it what I choose
- Are you jealous because I choose to be generous?
- The last are first, the first are last.
The way Matthew’s Jesus tells the story, we’re left holding all four answers, and trying to decide which is the least obnoxious answer . What makes it even harder is that Jesus started the story by saying “the kingdom is like”….. Matthew loves that language, doesn’t he? He’s also a bit too fond of that ‘preacher’s throwaway line, “The last first/first last” – which some commentaries dismiss as a Mattheanism, rather than a Jesusism.
We, in the Western Christian tradition have tended to search scripture for “the” answer, for the one true ‘take away.’ This passage defies that completely; we’re given 4 answers, expected to juggle them all, and make kingdom sense of it.
I think it’s going to take all of us, in community, to make any sense of this one. See you at CPU tomorrow morning, and let’s see what we can discover, together!