Darren Lippe has attended Resurrection since 1997. He met his wife, Doris, in Single Adult Sunday School at Resurrection and they have 2 sons, Matthew & Jacob. He helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 2nd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.
Being a parent of young-ish siblings means we frequently get to hear those 3 wonderful little words: “That’s not fair!”
We’ve watched bowls of ice cream start to melt as the brothers carefully count & visually weigh each strawberry to ensure they are equal. We’ve listened to the ongoing debate as to how to evenly split the chore of emptying the dishwasher. (The current formula is Plastic cups + Silverware = Glass cups + Plates + Bowls) Or when our older son Matthew needed glasses before starting 3rd grade, our then-first-grader, Jacob, moaned it wasn’t fair that Matthew got glasses & he didn’t. (At the eyeglass shop Jacob kept trying on empty frames & proclaiming, “Wow! I should get these. They really help me see better.” S-i-g-h.)
To be sure, the youngsters have plenty of examples from their adult counterparts. A quick review of the newspaper offers us a multitude of examples of adults crying, “That’s not fair.” Though, I think we adults aren’t really all that interested in fairness, per se. Perhaps we tend to mimic the young boy in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip who, when told the world wasn’t fair, wails, “Why can’t it ever be unfair in my favor?”
And then we come to today’s story. At 1st glance this parable seems to reek of unfairness. We can easily relate to our hard-working friends who complained about the wages of their slacker colleagues. However, this characterization may be amiss. Let’s take a second look at this scene.
Harvest time would require an influx of workers to help get the produce in from the vineyard in a race against time. The laborers in our story aren’t just hanging out being cool. Each community would have a marketplace/square where workers would go to be matched up with employers needing help. The workday would run from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening. The wages noted in our parable would be able to meet a family’s needs for that day, but our friends would definitely be living “paycheck to paycheck.”
The 1st batch of laborers selected would probably be the bigger, stronger workers or perhaps the most aggressive men to get to the front of the line. The workers left behind, one could imagine, would be on the shy side & perhaps smaller than their colleagues. Their employment opportunities would probably be very intermittent.
It’s a testament to the latter workers’ desperation for work that they were still in the marketplace at 5:00. With only one hour left in the day, they would have reasonably expected 1/12 of a day’s wage. Yet, they were willing to accept that wage or whatever the owner might offer them, even though they would still go to bed hungry that evening. The owner, however shocks them with his generosity. He certainly had no obligation to pay them an equal wage, but he was happy to choose to do so.
There are many lessons that can be drawn from this little story. It’s awfully tempting to let the world’s standards impact our relationship with God. We can compare/contrast our time sheet with others & mistakenly think that this will determine our value to God. But God is more interested in the heart with which we serve. Are we only willing to work in the field for God, because of what we think we’ll get out of it? Or are we content to be of use to Him & serve Him, just out of the joy of being in His presence?
Since we are offered such generous grace from an incredibly loving Father, I think it is safe to say that we will never get what we think we deserve. To which all God’s children, wiping their hand across their brow, should say, “Whew!”
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.