What does grace look like? The Gospel passage assigned for this day is Jesus’ parable of the labourers (or workers) in the vineyard: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.” The extraordinary thing about this parable is that the landowner paid everyone the same wage whether they had worked all day or just worked the last hour. What does this tell us about God’s grace?
Like much of Jesus’ teaching, this parable may be viewed as having many layers of meaning. Perhaps two, obvious, meanings would have met those who first heard it. The parable may have served as a warning to the disciples. Just because they have known Jesus for longer does not mean that they should look down on those who came to faith later. The kingdom of God exists in equal measure for all people irrespective of how soon they come to faith. Secondly, this parable may be viewed as a warning for the Jews and particularly the Jewish leaders. Even though the Jews were God’s chosen people, they should not despise the Gentiles for ‘coming to the party late’. However, this parable also speaks of the infinite compassion of God. A denarius was the minimum needed for subsistence living. These workers who were not hired at the start of the day, through no fault of their own, would nonetheless receive the minimum wage. It was pure grace and it meant that the worker and his family could survive for another day. Finally, it may be possible to uncover a layer of God’s preference for service without counting the cost. The first workers who were hired negotiated a contract. They worked for money only, and this was evident by the argument about pay differentials at the end of the day. The workers hired at the end of the day asked for nothing, they were just grateful for a job. Again, is this an insight into the kingdom of God. We do not deserve God’s reward; we simply receive it as a gift of divine grace.
Old Testament reading for this week: Exodus 16:2-15
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 20:1-16
Epistle reading for this week: Philippians 1:21-30
Psalm for this week: Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45