I’m reading a book called, “The Parables of Jesus,” by George A. Buttrick. It was published in 1928. It’s a wonderful book that gives deep insights into the parables of Jesus. One that impressed me this morning was on the parable of, The Vineyard Owner and the Laborers.
The story is of a man who needs laborers and goes early to the marketplace to hire some. He finds men standing around waiting for work and hires them. They agree on a wage of a denarius for a day’s work. The man goes back many times during the day because he needs more help. Finally, he goes at 5pm and asks the men there, “Why are you idle?” They answer him, “Because no one has hired us.” He says, “You go too into my vineyard.”
At the end of the day, the owner pays them all the same wage – a denarius. The ones who worked the longest were angry. They questioned why those who didn’t work as hard or as long got the same amount they did. The owner said, “Friend, I am not wronging you. Can I not do what I please with what is mine? Have you a grudge because I am generous?”
Jesus finished the story by saying this, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
He told this story after Peter had reminded Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything and followed him. “What shall we get for this?” was his question.
The author writes, “Life, lived abundantly, does not ask, “What shall we get?” God is not the Keeper of a ledger entering a credit or debit account, according as a man observes or fails to observe certain holy regulations…”God has subtler tests than the piece-measure and the time-clock. Everlastingly, the motive of a man’s life proclaims his worth.”
The author proposes the early workers are those who greet each day with strength and resolution. They perhaps have great talent, a keen mind and a healthy body. “But others drag crippling chains of inheritance, or beat against confining walls of circumstances. Who will hire them? They would like to serve God, but cannot serve him as they would like to. “No man has hired us.” But their intention is accepted as their deed!”
“Though they cannot claim saintliness, though in unrealized hopes they must be content to offer hospitality to the prophet and saint, they are not forgotten in the appraisals of the kingdom: “He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”
After reading this chapter, I thought of what I said to my husband once after we had been members at a church for a long time. “We aren’t like most of these people. We are damaged goods. We could never be an evangelist or preacher.”
We had both been horribly abused when we were children. Because of that, we both had a lot of emotional problems. Sometimes I felt like I was hanging on to God by my fingertips. What help could I be to someone else? And my hubby had anger issues because of all the beatings he endured. Neither of us were the picture-postcard of a Christian.
Reading this parable explained, I understand now that it is okay to be the last in the vineyard! Hallelujah! I’m happy with that position. I’m glad God is pleased with whatever I can do for him, even if it is very small.