Have you ever been in line in the grocery store when a new lane is suddenly opened up? Many times you will hear the clerk say Can I take the next person in line? But more often than not, someone who has just arrived will quickly scoot their cart into the free lane. Most of us are annoyed when this happens.
In this week’s passage, Jesus uses a story about workers in a vineyard to describe the dynamics of the Kingdom of God. You might remember the last verse of Matthew 19.
(Matthew 19:30 NIV) But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
This verse is puzzling. Why are the last first? This does not fit into our cultural understanding of fairness. We will talk more about this on Sunday. Let me encourage you to read Matthew 20:1-16 as you prepare for worship this weekend.
(Matthew 20:1-16 NIV) “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 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?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “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.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘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.’ “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?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”