In the Gospel of Matthew 20:1-16a Christ describes the Kingdom of God as a landowner who goes out five times to find men that need work, hires them, sends them into the fields and pays them all equally in the end.
Crazy, right? Well, that is our normal thinking at first hearing this story, but what about it? Here's another "twisted" parable that Christ gave his band of average guys to change their way of thinking, causing them (and us) to ask the question: what is fair, or what is equal in the eyes of our God?
In this parable, what WE think is completely equal and fair has been thrown out of the window, because God sees our needs as individuals very differently and very individually.
Those workers who were chosen early in the morning were very fortunate to have been hired right away: they didn't have time wait and worry about feeding their families. Those chosen at nine waited, but not so long as for those chosen at 12 and 3: they had time to wait and worry, but those chosen at 5 could very well have nearly given up hope...but they didn't. Hour after hour they waited, worried, and hoped beyond hope to be hired to work and get paid.
Though the early laborers bore the day's burden and heat by working, those who waited and worried bore another, quite different, equally burdensome labor. The landowner took pity on them and gave them a charity they appreciated deeply, probably more so than those laborers who "earned" their pay. The all-day laborers grumbled about it, but without being in the shoes of those chosen later, we can be so unfair and downright uncharitable. God doesn't function that way at all. In this case, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Here's another twist to this parable: God seeks us out! We are always hearing how we need to or want to or should seek God first and all will be answered. But what about God seeking us out? Looking for us and finding us where we are, possibly in the corner wallowing in our fears, and trials...and saving us? Not that I think we can just sit on our laurels and wait for Him, but there are times when I just know He is there at the right moment in our life at a time when we can not help ourselves and He hears our plea. For the laborers who were hired at the end of the day, God saw them and saved them based on their own individual need.
The bottom line here is that what we think is first and last cannot be anywhere close to what is truly God's way. God's way is really the way things should be, not our way, however that dastardly thing called free will comes into play here. Free will causes us to think differently, selfishly at times, changing the way we think and function. Enter Christ and His amazing parables that twists around the scenarios back to the way of God.
Copyright 2014, Ebeth Weidner
About the Author
Ebeth Weidner, a Master Catechist and cradle Catholic who considers herself a Catholic information junkie, writes from her heart about the faith and hope she finds in the Catholic Church. She is the author of “A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars” blog. She is the wife of a research science Professor and mom to 3 great young adults people living on the coastal side of North Carolina.