Throughout the parable, the owner of the vineyard is the dominant figure. He instructs his manager to pay the workers, and he addresses the laborers who think they have been wronged. The owner replies to one of the complainers by saying, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous. So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The owner does not take offense at the complainer. His words imply reproach, but the tone remains friendly. The owner does not argue; he does not justify himself. He merely ask questions that force the hearer to answer in the affirmative. Most of the workers experience the owner’s generosity. The disgruntled employees remain totally blind to the owner’s benevolence until the mask that veils their discontent is removed by the question, “Are you envious because I am generous?” In the kingdom of heaven equality is the rule. The work performed by the disciples, and for that matter by any one of Jesus’ followers, is transcended by a reward equal for all, even though the work itself may vary.
God’s gift is sheer grace. In the kingdom of God the principles of merit and ability may be set aside, so that the principle of grace triumphs. We are workers for the kingdom of God and being chosen to be kingdom workers entails joyous privilege.
Ever-present God, thank you for your gracious nature that ensures all a place in the kingdom. Amen.
The reading from Exodus 16 concerns Israel’s primary memory of food given in the wilderness, given where there are no visible sources of life, given in the face of restless protest, given wondrously and saving Israel from both hunger and despair. The verses from Psalm 105 recall the marvel of God’s grace during the wilderness years and the people’s joyful response. In the Philippians text Paul wrestles with the question of God’s will with respect to his own leadership. Paul not only explains the meaning of his incarceration but goes beyond that to explain the meaning of his life: “Living is Christ and dying is gain.” Matthew 20 reminds the reader that in the kingdom of heaven God’s mercy is often surprising, even offensive. People are valued not because of their economic productivity but because God loves and engages them.
• Read Exodus 16:2-15. What experiences have strengthened your trust in God?
• Read Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45. Spend a moment recounting God’s faithfulness to you in the past. Does recalling those times encourage your obedience to God today?
• Read Philippians 1:21-30. Paul acknowledges the importance of his physical presence to the Philippians. Whose physical presence makes a difference in your life?
• Read Matthew 20:1-16. What situations in your life make you question God’s fairness? When have you been envious because of God’s blessing of another?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.