I need to confess at the very beginning that this is my least favorite parable. This week’s Gospel reading is the one about all the workers receiving the same wage for the day no matter when they began. Of course, being schooled in a rather proficient Protestant work ethic, I want the one who got there first in the morning to receive the highest wage. [When I arrive early at work before the offices and classrooms fill, I find a rather unattractive smugness slithering into my psyche.] We do like to be justified by work(s), don’t we?
In our day, those with work are valued much more than those without, probably because we allow our work to define who we are to a major degree. We are proud of our industry and believe that everyone—if they just try hard enough—will find satisfying work. This perspective simply ignores the hard realities of our economy, white privilege, and the socio-cultural locations of competing persons.
Obviously, Jesus was well aware of the inequities of the marketplace of his day. He expressed care for those waiting for hire and encouraged those with means to provide livelihood for those in need. The means by which the prayer of our Lord, “give us this day our daily bread,” is answered is through generous hiring practices. This parable calls us to a level of divine justice that our reeling world cannot fathom. Generosity, like grace, always provides what is necessary—and more.