Are You Envious Because I Am Generous?
The owner of the vineyard in today’s gospel parable reserves the right to pay his employees not on the basis of their own merits but rather on the basis of his own compassion.
Generosity condemned as injustice
In today’s parable, why should such generosity be condemned as injustice? This idea finds its roots and deepest meaning in the Old Testament understanding of God the Creator who is good and generous to all who turn to him. This is the God in whom Jesus believed and lived, but in the person of Jesus, the divine compassion, the divine mercy, the divine goodness surpassed the divine justice. Therefore all who follow Jesus as his disciples and friends much imitate this extraordinary compassion and lavish generosity and never question, deny it or begrudge it.
The eleventh-hour workers
Perhaps many of us feel strongly with the disgruntled workers at the end of the parable. How often have we known whimsical employers who have compensated lazy or problematic workers far too generously, rather than acknowledging the faithful, dedicated day-in day-out workers? We may ask ourselves: How can God be so unfair? How can God overlook his most faithful workers? Underneath this parable is the issue of bargaining with God. From the very beginnings of religion it has been assumed that we mortals can bargain with the gods to obtain from them what we want.
How many times have we experienced this in our Church belonging and service? Some may grumble and claim that their long, dedicated, tireless service qualifies them instantly for higher pay, higher rank, and greater privilege and prestige. It is precisely at moments like this that we must humbly acknowledge that we are like those eleventh-hour workers.
Not one of us deserves the blessings that God has prepared for us. Our grumbling and lateral gazing often lead to serious resentments that are hard to shake off. All our good works give us no claim upon God. How much less do we have the right to demand, even if we have done everything we ought to do, that we should be honored and rewarded by God in a special manner as if we were such meritorious indispensable persons in His service? The word “entitlement” does not exist in the vocabulary of the Kingdom of God.
The only remedy to such sentiments is to look upon the merciful face of Jesus and thus recognize God’s lavish generosity in the flesh. Human logic is limited but the mercy and grace of God know no limits or boundaries. God doesn’t act by our standards. This means that we must see God and accept Him, in our brother and sister just as God has wished them to be. When God chooses a person, granting him particular graces, blessings or gifts, God does not reject the other person nor deprives him of His grace.
God’s graces and blessings are boundless, and each person receives his or her own share. God’s choice of a person or people should not be a cause of pride in those chosen, or rejection of those not chosen. It is only when the two parties live in humility and simplicity, and recognize together a God of love and mercy at work in their lives, that they will they will begin to learn the real meaning of love and justice, and finally come to reconciliation and deep, mutual understanding.