So, this Parable of the Laborers in the Field is one of those that turns our normal view of the world upside down and forces us to see things differently — perhaps as they really are. At least, that is what this parable did for me.
As a reminder, the story has a multitude of unemployed men, desperate to feed their families and discouraged from their inability to provide, finally getting hired by an owner of a large, ripe vineyard. Each man who needed a job got one that day. But they were hired in shifts. Yet each man was promised a wage, and exorbitant wage, that was identical to all other wages.
Here is the trick, They were not being paid based on merit, or what they accomplished. Rather, they were being paid just for participating. There is no mention of a quota each man had to make or harvesting goals to meet. They were simply put in the fields to work. They were all rewarded for simply being willing participants.
While the wage is the same for all, I have to assume the wage is not really the focus of this parable. That is why I asked the question: “Who had the better day?” For me, the mystery of this parable unraveled when I asked that simple question.
The answer to that question is obvious when you think about it. The men hired on the first shift had a much better day than all the others. Why? Because they spent the bulk of the day with hope restored. Early on in the day, they knew they would bring joy to their families. Sure, the work was hard and the sun was hot. But nothing can dampen the spirits of those with hope.
Those hired on the last shift had the more difficult day. The bulk of their day was spent in misery and hopelessness. As each successive shift was hired, they were left behind doubting their own self-worth, fearing the painful demise of their families to the pangs of hunger.
True, all were eventually hired and all had hope restored. They had enough to feed themselves and their families for the foreseeable future. But those who were blessed to labor for the whole day had the better day. So, if this story is not about the wages but about the blessing of laboring alongside the Master, how can lesson improve our relationship with God and each other?
Once again, stay tuned.