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Friends, in today’s Gospel, we hear of a landowner who goes out to hire workers for his field, hiring some first thing in the morning and then others at different times during the day. Then he pays each the same wage. Why should those who have worked only an hour be paid the same as those who have slaved in the hot sun all day? Is the landowner really being unfair? 

Perhaps he saw something that the first workers didn’t see. Perhaps he saw, in his compassion, that their day spent waiting for work to feed their families was a terrible one, marked by anxiety and a sense of failure. Or perhaps he knew that they were poorer, more desperate, less gifted. Maybe he knew they needed a bit more encouragement.

Here’s a second perspective on this mysterious story. We sinners are very susceptible to a reward-centered understanding of our relationship to God. Tit for tat; I do this, then you better do that. But this is very juvenile.

We’ve been invited to work in the vineyard of the Lord. That is the greatest privilege imaginable, to participate in the Lord’s work of saving the world. Why are we fussing about rewards? And how liberating this is! I don’t have to spend my life fussing and spying and worrying and comparing. I can live.