Published by DonDavidson on

I expect most of us are familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son.[1] The younger of two sons receives his share of his inheritance from his father, squanders it on loose living, finds himself poverty-stricken, and finally returns home to a warm welcome from his kind and generous father.

The second part of that parable may not be as well known. It is the story of the boy’s older brother, who stays on his father’s estate, working the land and being a dutiful son. When his brother returns and receives a royal welcome, the older son is peeved at what he perceives as injustice. He feels ignored and taken for granted when he sees his brother celebrated. In a word, he is jealous. But his father insists that it was right to celebrate the younger son’s return because in a sense he had returned from the dead.

Then there’s Jesus’ parable about the workers in the vineyard.[2] The early morning workers agree to work all day for a denarius, which was the typical wage for a day laborer in first century Rome. Subsequently, throughout the day, the vineyard owner sends more workers into the vineyard, promising to pay them whatever is fair. When the work day is over, all of the workers are paid the same—a denarius. The workers who have labored all day are incensed when they see the other workers getting the same pay for less work. But the vineyard owner has the perfect response:

Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go; but I want to give to this last person the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?[3]

Of course, the vineyard owner is God, and we are the workers. Jesus is warning us that we labor for a generous God, who gives the same salvation to the thief on the cross[4] that he does to Peter and Paul—and to you and me.

The lesson for those of us who labor for the Lord most of our lives is that we must not be jealous of those who come late to the party and receive the same salvation we do. Instead, let us rejoice that we serve a loving, generous, forgiving God.

[1]. Luke 15:11-32

[2]. Matthew 20:1-16

[3]. Matthew 20:13-15

[4]. Luke 23:42-43


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