His Ways are Not Our Ways

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By David Saviola, Arborbrook

There once was a wealthy landowner who went out at daybreak to hire all the laborers he could find to work in his vineyard. After agreeing to pay them the standard day’s wage, he put them to work. Then at nine o’clock, as he was passing through the town square, he found others standing around without work. He told them, “Come and work for me in my vineyard and I’ll pay you a fair wage.” So off they went to join the others. He did the same thing at noon and again at three o’clock, making the same arrangement as he did with the others.

Hoping to finish his harvest that day, he went to the town square again at five o’clock and found more who were idle. So, he said to them, “Why have you been here all day without work?”

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they answered. So, he said to them, “Then go and join my crew and work in my vineyard.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard went to his foreman and said, “Call in all the laborers, line them up, and pay them the same wages, starting with the most recent ones I hired and finishing with the ones who worked all day.” When those hired late in the day came to be paid, they were given a full day’s wage. And when those who had been hired first came to be paid, they were convinced that they would receive more. But everyone was paid the standard wage. When they realized what had happened, they were offended and complained to the landowner, saying, “You’re treating us unfairly! They’ve only worked for one hour while we’ve slaved and sweated all day under the scorching sun. You’ve made them equal to us!” The landowner replied, “Friends, I’m not being unfair—I’m doing exactly what I said. Didn’t you agree to work for the standard wage? If I want to give those who only worked for an hour equal pay, what does that matter to you? Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Why should my generosity make you jealous of them?”

This story should give all of us pause. I know one of the first times I read this, it stopped me in my tracks, and I had to immediately re-read it very slowly. I had a range of thoughts running through my head about this wealthy landowner: What a cheat! He’s a manipulator! Man, what an incredibly generous business owner! Holy cow, this guy is a major community influencer!!

The truth is, this powerful account is recorded in the Bible’s Book of Matthew, Chapter 20, and is preceded by some very important words from Jesus. He said, “This will help you understand the way heaven’s kingdom operates …”

There’s a common prayer that almost all of us know or have heard in our lifetime: The Lord’s

Prayer. In one section, those words, which many of us have reiterated a thousand times say, “ …on earth as it is in heaven.” If that’s really true, then we should be operating like this wealthy landowner, willing to take action with the resources God has given us in ways that sometimes just don’t make sense to the world.

At the conclusion of this story, Jesus makes another strong statement: “Now you can understand what I meant when I said that the first will end up last and the last will end up being first. Everyone is invited, but few are the chosen.” You’re invited to be one of the few.