Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Bear Wade

The Blessing of The Usual Daily Wage
Matthew 20:1-16
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 20-Sunday between September 18 and 25 Inclusive)
analysis by Michael Hoy

1″For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘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.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to the last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

DIAGNOSIS: The Wages of the Daily Burden

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Idle
When the Owner comes looking for people to work his vineyard, he finds them idle. Perhaps some of them are not even looking for work; they may be waiting for work to come to them. Still, the Owner gives them (us) work in his vineyard. And even then, the Owner goes out to find more persons to work the vineyard. Might it suggest that there is some ongoing idleness in those who were hired first, idle on the job?

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Envious
The pay for our labors, at first, seems “fair.” Laborers and Owner agree. But when the Owner decides to give the same “daily wage” to those who worked less time — even one hour — those who were hired first are envious, jealous, even resentful. They expected to receive “more,” complaining that they “bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” This demonstrates that their heart is not in sync with the Owner. They seek what, to them, seems “fair.” The “evil eye” of envy is not centered in the Giver, but only in the gifts.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Last
Yet when the Owner gives fairness for his gifts, would we really be ready to receive it? Are we prepared to receive “what is right” as those who are discovered by the Owner to be the idle-working, envious-of-those-around-us people that we are, who grumble at the Owner? Then, indeed, even standing at the end of the line is risky.

PROGNOSIS: The Wages of the Generous Owner

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: First, through The Usual Daily Wage
What makes our place vibrant, however, is that the Owner gives us “more” than what we deserve in the “daily wage,” the “daily Bread” of Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Christ is the one who finds us with the Owner’s heart, not by standing above us, but in the less-intimidating place of being “usual,” familiar with us. And he puts us first, not giving us what is our fair compensation, but taking his place at the end of our line in order to give to us all the “wage” of his own generous self. That wage we would never have on our own, but it is enough to cover the whole of our indebtedness, our failing to do “what is right.” Jesus does right by us.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Befriended
Even more, he stands right by us, befriending us with the generous heart so that the Owner calls us “friend,” even when we do not deserve that relationship. Yet we trust that that promising hand of God’s blessed relationship is on our shoulders — and begin to see that the Owner’s gift of the “daily wage” is a gift in Christ that we all get as what “belongs” to us. It is ours to have and to hold by faith.

Step 6- Final Prognosis: Working the vineyard
When we get this generous gift of belonging and relationship through Christ, we get to see the opportunities of putting others first, embracing the work in the vineyard, seeing it as an occasion for giving the “daily wage” of the Generous Owner to others who are still waiting — maybe not even looking — for the chance to be in the Owner’s vineyard, and in the Owner’s good graces. This is their chance to step in line, even ahead of us, because we all have the joyous hope of the blessing of the “daily wage” in Christ that is to be received.


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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.


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