The gospel this Sunday brings to mind the commonly used phrase, “It’s just not fair”. Just imagine an employer pays all his workers the same salary whether they began work at six or nine, or twelve or three or five. And he justifies his salary system with a questionable principle: “Am I not allowed to choose with what belongs to me?” (Matt: 20:15)
This parable takes us to those events and places in our lives when we just want to cry out: “It’s just not fair!” The parable takes us back to our childhood when our brothers and sisters seemed to get a bigger piece of the cake, or a nicer bike, or a better deal than we did. The parable can remind us of those times that we were left on the side, or we weren’t chosen. There are many occasions in our lives when we feel cheated and we want to scream: “It’s just not fair!” Jesus first told this parable because people, especially good people, especially religious people were complaining to him that: “It’s just not fair!” The faithful were often scandalized that Jesus was so open and that he was so accepting of the rag tags of his day. People like the tax-collectors, the prostitutes, and the new comers to God’s reign. The ever-so-good people thought that somehow religion was a matter of reward. Jesus’ response to this kind of attitude was a very definite NO! For Jesus religion was not a matter of reward. Religion was about rejoicing in the fact that ALL are invited to the kingdom, where the first as well as the last, the faithful as well as the sinners, the old-timers as well as the new-comers will all be welcome. Jesus told this parable to the people of his day, who just like us, often think and feel that our faith, that our religion can be measured by our ways. We’re being reminded that faith can only be measured by God’s ways, because God is more generous and more loving and forgiving than our tiny little minds could ever imagine.
Well what about us living twenty centuries after this parable was first spun? What significance can the Parable of the Good Employer have on our lives? In our popular kiwi-culture aren’t there a great deal of attitudes that are widespread? Attitudes like this, “You get what you deserve”, or “nothing comes free”, or “if you want money then work for it”, or “if you want mercy, you have to deserve it”. Today’s parable is challenging us to look at justice through God’s eyes. The justice of which God speaks is not textbook justice. The justice of God says: Give to each man, woman and child what is due to each. Give to each what they have a right to demand, because he or she is a human being.
Open your hearts to this parable, let the spirit loose and you might just be lost in wonder at how good and just God really is.
With good wishes, Monsignor Paul Farmer