In the parable, the workers who are hired first are hurt: they are not only paid last, but are treated the same way as the latecomers.
Obviously, Jesus uses exaggerations in this parable. Therefore, it is not to be taken literally, much less to draw an image of God from the landowner. The heart of the parable lies in the sly question at the close of equal payment: “Are you envious because I am generous?” In this question, Jesus reveals to us some of the absurdity of our own lives that we have to face. Aren’t we fond of comparing ourselves to others? Isn’t our sense of satisfaction disturbed when we see others better off than we are? The parable reveals such objection as absurd, for it really is.
GOSPEL • Mt 20:1-16
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
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