And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. Matthew 20:9

Today’s Gospel was  not about employer-employee agreements. If it were so, it would have been an unjust contract. One can see the land owner in a good light; he provides work for some idle people who have nothing to do and are desperately in need of work to make a living.

The parable is really a story about God’s grace, love, forgiveness and compassion. These gifts are God’s to bestows as he pleases.  It speaks about God’s graciousness. The Book of Common Prayer As we live out our lives in the church and the state we must always be cognizant of the fact that at the end of the day we will all receive a penny.

Grace is God’s favour towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our will.

God is free to do with his gifts as he chooses. If we are not careful we can, like the labourers begrudge and become envious of what people have received from God. In a sense the parable warns us against covetousness and invites us to be content with what we have. Without a sense of contentment we might believe that God has not treated us fairly, if it appears that others are doing better than we are. There is also the possibility that we might be angry with God if people we consider less than ourselves are getting the same gifts from God that we are getting. When we conjure up these thoughts our lives can be consumed by envy, self-righteousness and anger.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Christianity is a religion of GRACE

The idea that God should not be kind to some people or that some people are not deserving of God’s grace surfaces in the Old Testament reading. Jonah flees to Tarshish to avoid delivering God’s message of forgiveness. Jonah is angry because God accepts the people’s repentance and forgives them. How could God forgive such evil people? Jonah’s resentment is not hidden: “for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live." The message of grace comes to the fore in today’s Old Testament reading: “And should not I pity Nin'eveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

Both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel make the salient point that we must not be envious of God’s gifts which he shares impartially with all people. The readings warn us to avoid envy, greed, jealousy, covetousness and evil desires as we experience God’s grace at work in the world.

The Gospel makes the point that God treats all people equally as it relates to his grace, mercy and forgiveness. This we find difficult to accept at times and like the labourers we complain: “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”

It is not uncommon for people to seek privilege or honour from God because of their status. We believe that our status gives us superiority over others. In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that our standing in society plays no part in our relationship with God. We are all God’s children and we share equally in his love. Our salvation is not linked to our social standing but what God has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Matthew uses today’s reading to defend Jesus’ acceptance and his inclusion of persons – tax collectors and sinners - who are considered unclean and unworthy, and as such outside the paling of salvation. The reading speaks of the inclusive nature of Christ’s ministry and answers the question:  “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Matthew informs us in this parable that all who come to Christ will find readily acceptance. “Whosoever will may come.” This passage also reinforces the teaching of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God has no favourites; he shows no partiality; all who accept him in faith regardless of their social standing are accepted in his kingdom:  In the Book of Acts we read: And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

The Gospel reading also speaks to the members of the community of faith. The complaints of the labourers can be found at times in the church. Very often there is grumbling and resentment when it seems that new members are taking leadership positions too soon. There is an anger and dislike among some church people when new members, young members or certain ‘classes’ of members, are given tasks to perform for the strengthening of the church’s ministry. Very often we turn off people and turn them away from the church when we display behaviours that say he or she  ‘just come’. We behave like the labourers when we complain that our work in the church is not recognised;  when we refuse to welcome into our fellowship repentant sinners who come seeking God’s embrace and love.

The Gospel is a warning to long standing members of the church, members in leadership positions, church officers and any others who believe that their long association with the church gives them special honour, status  or privilege within the body of Christ. It does not. Actually, it calls us to a deeper service as go about our daily tasks in the church. We in the church must always remember that our work in the church is a gift and not a benefit from God that bestows any advantage – “they received every man a penny.”

At the social level the Gospel addresses issues that relate to privilege and honour based on class. Is our society divided along the lines of class?  Will we ever have a classless society? I think the answer is no, given the nature of humanity. Societies will always divide their members into social classes using various criteria. There will always be people of higher and lesser honour, but our standing in society must not convey the message that some people are less equal than others, and therefore should be treated less than human. We should not see our status as a privilege that gives us a right to take advantage of persons. We should not see our religious beliefs, colour, race, nationality, citizenship and the like as honours, which make us superior to others and engage in activities to their detriment.
The Gospel speaks to the equality of all people who are children of God and made in the image of God. How do we treat these children of God?  Non-Barbadians who are living among us. People in our midst who do not share the Christian faith. Persons who do not share our social values.

As we live out our lives in the church and the state we must always be cognizant of the fact that at the end of the day we will all receive a penny.

Make a free website with Yola