Came as the older; left as the younger
Matthew 20: 13-15 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’"
After we've been doing this church thing for a few years, it's fairly common for people to find a paradox in themselves - while they may have walked through the church doors as a younger brother, they now find themselves with the heart of the older.
There is a parable in Matthew about a farmer who pays the same wage to all his laborers, regardless of what time of day they started working for him. At the end of the day, the laborers who started early grumble and are angry that the farmer paid everyone the same. It feels unfair to them that, even though everyone agreed to work for the same wage, they are still only getting what they deserve.
This strikes me as similar to the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. He is struck not by his father's generosity toward the younger brother, but by the profound sense that things have been unfair to him simply because the younger brother is getting more than he really deserves.
It's interesting to me that our response to the grace poured out on others can so often be anger that we did not get extra grace - just to even the score a little. Today, will you read the full text of the parable below and consider what it would look like (and what sort of posture would be necessary) for all of the laborers to rejoice in the generosity of the farmer?
Matthew 20: 1-16
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon 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.’
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.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These 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.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’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.”