Matthew 20:1-16

How we react to the way the landholder paid the men he hired to work in his vineyard depends on the state of our own hearts. We could respond, “Oh, what a generous employer!” or we could say, “Isn’t that terribly unfair?”

In giving so liberally to those who had worked only a short time, the landowner was taking nothing away from the laborers who had worked all day. “I am doing you no wrong,” he reminded those who felt cheated. “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” (Matthew 20:13). Then he got at the heart of the problem by asking the grumblers, “Are you envious because I am generous?” (20:15).

As he so often did during his public ministry, Jesus once again turned customary rules and expectations upside down. He was not concerned here with labor relations or market-based economics. Rather, with this story and its surprising twist, Jesus exposed the canker of envy in the human heart and vividly illustrated the mercy and generosity of God—generosity so unstinting that it confounds not only our logic but also our sense of justice.Read more

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