On the advice of counsel, I hereby withdraw the labor grievance I filed more than 30 years ago. The expert with whom I consulted comes highly recommended and works pro bono. I am sure you have heard of him. His name is Matthew from the firm of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, LLC.
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 20 is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The landowner hired laborers throughout the day. When it was time to get paid, those who worked for a shorter amount of time received the same wage as those who were out in the fields all day.
No fair! Shouldn’t the guy who clocked in at 8 a.m. make more than someone who did not start working until 3 p.m.? Oh, the injustice. That’s exactly what I thought when I was a kid and it was time to collect my allowance for doing chores around the house. The details are hazy after all these years. But my brother and I had some household tasks that probably included taking out the trash, setting the table, doing the dishes and more.
We always received an equal allowance for completing our tasks. But that was not good enough for me. With entrepreneurial instincts, I had what seemed to be a brilliant idea one day: if I did more work I would get more money. So without my parents knowing, I quietly did a load of extra chores around the house. I went on a rampage and cleaned and organized things that I never even knew needed cleaning and organizing.
When payday rolled around, I told my parents about all the additional chores I had done and held my hand out expecting a heftier payoff. To my shock, my allowance was the same as it had always been. I probably did twice as much work as my brother, but he received the same amount of money that I did. I was angry, whined and plead my case to no avail.
My parents thanked me for the extra effort but explained that my previously established allowance was a just wage for helping around the house. (Of course, I really did not file a labor grievance, and I have not been holding a grudge all these years.)
I have read the parable of the workers in the vineyard many times. But the other day was the first time that this reading reminded me of the allowance incident all those years ago. It is one of the joys of the Bible that you can read the same reading over and over and learn something new every time.
God’s love and invitation to salvation cannot be measured or calculated. He holds the doors to heaven open for everyone. But it’s up to us to accept Him, His teachings and His offer of eternal life.
As Christians, everything we do should be focused on the same goal: heaven. This parable is a good reminder to take a look at our lives and make sure we are on the right path. But the point is not to compare ourselves to others as we strive for eternal salvation.
Are you doing a better job getting to heaven if you spend twice as much time volunteering for the church as someone else is? It is not our business to draw that comparison.
Had I received a bonus in my allowance during that week when I did so much extra work, I am quite sure that I would have waved that cash in my brother’s face and gloated. I did better than you and got a bigger payoff, I would have thought.
But that’s not how it’s supposed to work in the Lord’s vineyard. If you get to heaven and the first person who greets you happens to be one of the world’s most notoriously evil political leaders from history, should you resent that he is there because you were a better person? Will you get a better room than he does at the Heavenly Hilton?
Again, it is not our business to draw this comparison. We better not be thinking that way or our eternal room may be in a much hotter place. How and when a “bad guy” has a change of heart and turns to the Lord is between Him and him. Getting to heaven is a just wage for all of us.
Looking back on the allowance incident, I should have known that serving my mother and father by helping around the house was simply the right thing to do without any extra compensation and without trying to outdo my brother. Just the same, serving the Father is the right thing to do and not a competition; it is simply divine. My lawyer said so.