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A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus said to his disciples: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning
to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into
his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he
said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he
went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And 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?” They
said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.’
When 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.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of
them received the usual daily wage.
Now when the first came they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual
daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “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.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with
me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I
give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I
am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Today’s Gospel parable (Matt 20:1-16) has been called the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The heart of the story is the amazing compassion and graciousness of the employer. Throughout the day this vineyard owner demonstrates sensitivity and compassion for the unemployed and that compassion is enlarged by his generosity at the end of the day.
A surprise surfaces at the heart of this parable, a steward suddenly walks on stage with a mandate to pay all the workers a living wage and to reverse the expected order of payment. At the time the living wage for a workman was one denarius a day and the master defends this grace filled decision to pay that sum in full to all the workers, regardless as to when they clocked in.
This story tells us something about God’s kingdom and also tells us something about ourselves and the society in which we live. The laborers all received their due from the landlord who represents God, and yet there was dissent. However, no one was treated unfairly. The first workers agreed to the full wage of the day and they received it. Jesus is saying that everything is a generous gift from God and teaches us to be thankful for what we have been given.
Complaints are often directed towards God, ‘Why are others healthy while I am in constant pain?’ ‘Why do others enjoy a more comfortable life-style than I do?’ There are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition or clearly has a special talent. Jesus teaches us not to be envious as we are not in a race against each other. In God’s eyes, the first and the last are brothers and sisters, who stand before God as friends and equals.
This week’s texts from the prophet Isaiah and Matthew call on us to be more authentic reflections of the God whose ways and thoughts are so unlike our own. Even the wicked can turn to God and there find mercy and forgiveness. God says; ‘Seek me, turn to me and be forgiven’. Would that Hitler and Stalin had given heed!

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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