That is what I see in Matthew 20:1-16, a story of the landowner and his workers in the vineyard.
But wait, our worldly wisdom tells us that this will not work. Whoa to that landowner, because tomorrow no one is going to show up in the morning! Everyone is gonna be sleeping in. Some may sneak in just before happy hour.
Well we know that this is not the major point of the story that Jesus is diving into here. But it is part of our human experience. It ties into how we relate to things and view our world. It speaks to the underlying tone of jealousy – comparison – and happiness within each of us.
Do you remember going to gym class? Two captains are chosen. You stand in a line – just waiting to be selected. And with each selection, if you weren’t picked, you wondered why did she not choose me? Or even better, are you kidding me….she chose him – her – over me! And then you play the game and kinda forget about that selection process. Until it happens again…and again..and again.
Well gym class represents much of our life. It is played out in the adult realm of things all the time. College applications and Job Fairs…Dating, friendship circles, business meetings, Community and leadership boards, Renting and buying of places to live, Economic engines, government systems, family drama, etc. As a pastor I have seen siblings torn apart. Siblings and relatives who won't speak to each other ever again because of who got what nick nack in the house when grandma passed away. I was here helping all the time. They did nothing. You love them more than me. You gave them more than me. And we stammer and stammer and stammer. Life is not fair!
And your right…..in this world….the World’s Story…..playing by the age old rules of things….Life has its ups and downs. The words of Forrest Gump sum it up well. Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you are going to get. It’s true. How many of us have hovered over that box and made that very careful selection….Only to end up at times with that dreaded bitter chocolate that we were hoping to avoid? And Grandma says…..you have to eat it…you chose it….you can only have one! Oh life is not fair!
On a grander scale, some of us believe that six primary world stories shape our lives, and if we have these then we will have peace and security. Or we will get what we have worked for or always wanted. These six stories can be summed up in the following: Domination – do whatever it takes to be number one - Seek power – Bully – Bark the loudest – create fear. Revolution – put down any voices from below - Silence the poor, the powerless, and disenfranchised - Rule with an iron fist – keep those below you in chaos. Purification – chase away anything that does not look like me - Or think like me – or act like me. Isolation – Drive people away – Pull yourself up - Individualism always over community. Victimization – in order to be victorious you rise above the rest and in order to stay on top you keep others under your feet. Accumulation – the one with the most toys wins – greed goes unchecked - it's a dog eat dog world – I got mine good luck getting yours.
In naming them we begin to notice something. These stories are broken. They do not bring life to us or the world. These stories simply do not work. They serve to drive us apart. They create more and more suffering. And they fail to answer the question of how to make a better world.
Thanks be to God that Jesus’s story is something all-together different. Jesus does not live by these worldly constructs. He lived pouring out life. He sought to tear down the things that conquer and divide creation and humanity. He sought to build up a new humanity where real life and real love would be experienced by all. Jesus cared deeply about bringing heaven to earth. Jesus came down to show us this. In him we see a vision for what life is to really be about. When the world’s death knell sought to silence him God raised him up. Because He lives we can live too.
This whole parable of the laborers points to a brand new story - a whole different way of living and loving. I love it when Jesus asks, “So you are angry over me being generous? You are saddened by me pouring out generosity on all?” The crowd had to shake their head Yes! And you see….that is exactly what is wrong with the world’s story. With Jesus, if one rejoices – we all get to rejoice. If one suffers – we all suffer. Jesus rejoices when all are fed, clothed, and housed. Jesus rejoices when all have dignity and worth and value. Not because of what we have done but because this is what God desires! That is God’s story. And it is unlike anything the world typically lives by. But this is how God calls us to live. We are called to write new stories of life and transformation!
We have an abundantly generous God. Our God does not make change. All are gonna receive. All are gonna be blessed. All are gonna be raised up. Not because we earned it – deserved it – or had it coming - only because Jesus will make it so.
Another kid’s game that you will remember…..when we were in young love in elementary or middle school. He loves me he loves me not!
Ripping off petal by petal we wondered, will he or she love us? Jesus never plays that game. No doubt – he loves us – he loves us – he loves us!
May we be like Jesus and do what Jesus does. Hold nothing back and give our all – to all – with all – for the sake of all! Amen!