It’s not fair! A perfectly human reaction.
We’re so reward based as a culture that we have come to believe it’s the right way to be.
But our focus on financial rewards, or any rewards for that matter, changes us. When we’re counting and comparing, consciously or not, we get angry when someone seems to get more than they “deserve”, and we get less than we “deserve”. And that leads us into feeling humiliation.
Sure feels unfair to us.
But really it’s not unfair—it’s radically fair, it’s just, it’s generous, it’s grace, it’s God’s way. And we don’t like it. It’s such a completely different way of looking at life.
So there’s the first call of this text: to see as God does, which is the reverse of how we see. We see with what a Sojourners writer, Min-Ah Cho calls “the ethical standards constructed by capitalism”, as people in Jesus’ day saw with the hierarchical system of imperialism.
That’s the first shift: to let go counting and comparing, and admit where it has taken us and what it has made us.
But there’s more. There is in fact more of a radical call here. This story seems to suggest God goes even further, that the way of the kin-dom gives priority to the unwanted, and gives challenge to the privileged….comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable….with the purpose that the whole community can grow together through vulnerability – the vulnerability of being unwanted and the vulnerability of losing power – just as we were called to grow 2 weeks ago through the tough love of conflict and last week through the tough work of forgiveness.
This is a radical paradigm shift. Like the 70 x 7 last week, this is a story about not counting, because counting and comparing are subtle ways of domination of the other—wanting power over others. God’s paradigm is about empowering.
You see, the unwanted, those ‘standing idle all day’, were probably not the lazy idle, but the unwanted idle, those who weren’t as useful as the others, those at the bottom of the ladder, in fact not even on the ladder: the weak, the sick, the disabled, the outsider. Today perhaps the list might expand to include the discounted undocumented immigrants, the elderly, children in poverty, the un- and underemployed.
In God’s kin-dom way, in God’s vineyard work force, those were the people last hired and first paid. I wonder why? Perhaps so they might learn about divine generosity and grace, not just economic justice generosity, but inclusion generosity.
And the first hired were paid last. I wonder why? Perhaps so they might learn humility and learn to BE just and generous.
The kin-dom of heaven – the community of God - our congregation – is called to be a place where all are welcome, all are valued, all have purpose. And in this God-paradigm, generosity, grace, vulnerability and humility are the standards. God is still calling us to join the Jesus workforce—there’s still work to be done……still calling us to shift our counting and comparing thinking……still calling us to see people with God’s eyes, treat people with divine generosity….still calling us to give priority to the unwanted, to keep going out to where people are standing waiting for someone to empower them and off them meaning….still calling us to challenge the privileged, starting with ourselves…..still calling us to rejoice in grace and live in generosity.