Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Laborers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1-16 Commentary
by Elisabeth Johnson
There is no question that God cares about economic justice.
The Bible consistently witnesses to God’s concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, the resident alien. Scripture also has some pretty harsh words for those who trample the poor and vulnerable for their own gain.
There is no question that God cares about justice. Yet in this parable Jesus tells about the workers in the vineyard, we learn that God does not operate according to our standards of fairness. This parable contradicts so many of our assumptions about the world. In most areas of our lives, we are taught that we get what we deserve. If we follow the rules and work hard, we should get ahead. We should get the good grade, the promotion, or the raise. We should receive recognition for our years of loyal service. Those who are idle or lazy should not expect to receive the same rewards.
We can understand, then, the grumbling of the workers in the parable, the last in line to receive their wages, those who have worked a 12-hour day in the scorching ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL167: Laborers in the Vineyard
March 01, 2015
Narrative Lectionary podcast on readings for March 1, 2015: Matthew 20:1-16 (Accompanying text: Psalm 16:5-8).