The Generosity of the Landowner
Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
September 21, 2014 (15th Sunday after Pentecost)
In the Philippines nowadays, one of the important issues is pork barrel. Some congressmen and senators connived with one another, including some crooked people like Napoles and company, just to shrewdly withdraw the money of the people through the help of bogus non-profit organizations and projects. People are suffering from poverty and yet those corrupt politicians are enjoying the money of the people. Is that fair?
Our Parable today tells about fairness, generosity and love in the kingdom of God.
I. The Activities in the Kingdom
The Parable shows a usual business of a day. The landowner looked for more workers for his vineyard. The landowner did not stop, he looked for more workers in the early morning, at 9 in the morning, in the noon time, at 3 in the afternoon, and even at 5 in the afternoon.
We might conclude that his vineyard was so vast, and he needed more workers. The landowner called a lot of workers, but of course, he chose the right workers, he did not hire all of them, he chose those potential workers as indicated in verse 20:16.
To persuade workers to work for his vineyard he promised them to pay one denarius each day. The denarius was a Roman silver coin in New Testament time. It took its name from it being equal to ten “asses”, a number after 217 B.C. increased to sixteen (about 3.898 grams or .1375 oz.). It was the principal silver coin of the Roman Empire (Thayer’s).
The workers worked for the day due to the landowner’s fair deal with them.
III. The Generosity and Fairness in the Kingdom
The Parable shows the character of the Kingdom of God:
There’s love or charity. The landowner showed his love through generosity by hiring the laborers even though the work time of the day was lesser. The landowner kept poor men to work, and kept them from idleness and poverty.
The Parable shows us how to love others. There’s fairness and justice. In our world nowadays justice and fairness are showed only to those who are near to us, to those we want to love, to those who follow us, to those who uphold our will, to those who buy our products, and to those who belong to the same party, and are showed to those who have same color or same country. That’s not love in the kingdom sense!
There’s fairness in the kingdom. The landowner paid all the laborers according to their agreement: one denarius each day. For other laborers, the landowner was unfair since he paid other workers equally even though they worked for lesser time. But did he violate any agreement? Not even once! He did not take the salary of one laborer, and gave to another laborer. He did not say, since you worked only for few hours, I will give the rest of your salary to those who worked many hours in the vineyard. The Parable only shows that the landowner was generous to everybody. The landowner was true to his promise and agreement and he did not change the rules in the middle of the game. The landowner was indeed fair!
I watched the movie Apocalypto (2006) produced by Mel Gibson, and it shows that the powerful Mayan kingdom captured weak village people to make them slaves and offer them to their gods. At the top of their pyramid altar, their Mayan priests opened the hearts of the sacrificial men, beheaded and threw their heads and bodies down the last steps of the pyramid. The Mayans used and offered lives of others just to comply with their religion. It shows then the unfairness of their religious system.
I wish that our faith is not like that of Mayan religion, we shall uphold, pursue, and be a catalyst of God’s fairness in every aspect of our life and daily businesses. If we do that we show to the world that we belong to the kingdom of God.
Another interpretation of the laborers’ salary is reward. The early laborers were the early chosen ones by God for his kingdom, and there would be late laborers in the kingdom, but all of them will receive the same reward at the end of their work, and that’s eternal life in his bosom.
The challenge for all of us nowadays is that we try to become catalyst of God’s kingdom in our own community by being fair and equally generous to all people.