When I hear the debates “equal pay for equal work” I am always reminded of the parable that Jesus gives us about the land owner and paying the laborers the same wages, even though they all worked different hours during the day. Here is the parable in Matthew 20:1-16:
1″For the kingdom of heaven (Jesus is telling us what heaven is like, I don’t think this is a lesson in labor management, or about running a vineyard, or equal pay for equal work, but He is telling us what God is like) is like a landowner who went out early(6am was the start of the day) in the morning to hire laborers (the owner went to the local labor union hall to get some workers, it’s that time of year to harvest and I suspect he needed to get the crop in before the rainy season came, or the grapes were ripe and needed to be picked NOW) to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius (which was normal wages for a days work, so with this first group he made a commitment for the wages for the day) for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3″About the third hour(9 am) he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5So they went.
“He went out again about the sixth hour(noon) and the ninth hour (3pm) and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour(5pm) he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7” ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ (do you remember when u were in school and you were have a spelling bee or a baseball game and two captains were choosing up sides? Were you ever chosen last? Because you weren’t very good at baseball or spelling or the math quiz exercise?) Well I remember, and it was terrible feeling to be chosen last, how do you think these workers felt. And a denarius was really the minimum wage for the day.
8″When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ (Now this guy wouldn’t win any prizes with the local labor union, where last hired is the first fired rule and here he is paying the last first, and a full days pay at that)
9″The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12’These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day, (so the union stewards were screaming about this, whoa, this isn’t fair, we worked all day in the hot sun and we get the same as the worker who only worked one hour, tomorrow were going to strike, and u can have all these scabs).
Well Jesus is about to teach us a couple of lessons about treating people fairly, and about God’s grace and I think about how God wants us to try to understand Him.
13″But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16″So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Who do u think was first in this parable? The Jews were the chosen people and Jesus was talking to the Jews. Do you think he was talking about the Jews and the Gentiles. Some writers think so.
Was He talking about those who come to serve God, those that come early in life, and those that come later in life? Is it fair that the hardened criminal who robs, kills, steals and goes to jail where they accepts Jesus Christ sitting in the electric chair get the same love and grace from God as you and I do, having spent a lifetime of following Christ?
Does it seem fair?
You see that is the point of the parable, Jesus says at the beginning “the kingdom of heaven is like”, He is describing how God treats humankind
and how fair he is regardless of what you do, His grace is the same to everyone.
You can work your whole life for God and some one only does it for two days and God see us as equals. Now here is the real question no one talks about, when the workers were standing there all day and weren’t called to work why weren’t they called? Poor workers maybe? How about the ones that didn’t show up on time? Overslept? And why didn’t this landowner hire them in the first place, cause they weren’t there?
Or maybe they were there and this land owner called them but just they didn’t answer the call.
That is the real point of the parable, at least one of two points Jesus was trying to make. Has God called each of us several times and we have ignored the call? And will we be called at the 11th hour?
How many times in your life did you feel (and I don’t mean you specifically, or maybe I do) that God wanted you to come to church, get involved in helping someone less fortunate, or stop sinning, or whatever and how many times did you reject Him and will we get our 11th hour chance?
We are all chosen by God at different times in our lives and
we need to answer the call whenever we are called. Aren’t we all in the market place waiting to be chosen?
Do we hear the call in our hearts? No amount of work makes any difference to God, as God sees us as equals, equal love, equal grace, and equal forgiveness. Answer the call and receive God’s grace.