In case it isn’t obvious, our Lord’s parables are on one level,
very plain in meaning; almost too much so.
It’s very tempting to listen and nod and say, “got it,” and move on.
But stop and think: do you suppose he didn’t know that?
The Gospel emphasizes, “he spoke this to his disciples.”
That is, he wasn’t speaking to a mass of curious onlookers,
but to that smaller group of those
who had been drawn by grace to begin to believe in him;
and who spent a great deal of time with him.
This means not only the Twelve Apostles,
but also a larger group of men and women
including his own mother, Mary Magdalene,
and others we might mention.
In the days after the Resurrection, according to Acts chapter one,
this group was about 120 people.
And, we know from several places in the Gospels,
that there were people who followed for a while,
but later turned away.
So they’re listening to this parable, same as you.
On a surface level, it’s so simple.
Be content with your reward, no good can come from envy.
So what if the Lord gets some last-minute converts;
how does that hurt you or me?
But let’s hit the pause button, and let me ask you:
are you a hired day worker?
Is that who you are to Jesus? Is that who any of us is?
If you have a farm, and it’s harvest time,
It’s all hands on deck, especially if the crop is perishable.
But you can distinguish two groups working side-by-side.
Those who are hired for a wage,
and those who are the family, whose farm it is.
When I was a boy, one time my father asked me to do a job.
And I was at the age where I started to get a little mouthy.
And I said, “what will I get paid?”
I remember my dad smiling a little, and discussing that.
But then, after we’d settled on pay, he said,
“Hold on. There are some other items.”
And he went on to talk about rent, and food,
and utilities, and insurance;
if I wanted things to be on a business basis,
I had to pay my full share.
I blanched, and my dad very graciously let me back up,
and be part of the family, rather than a hired worker.
But even that wasn’t the full lesson.
It was some time later – and this moment comes for us all –
when we realize, the true reward isn’t the home, the hot showers,
the air conditioning, the full refrigerator. No!
The reward was and is my father, my mother, my family!
And, yes, our family life isn’t always happy.
I’m not trying to paper over the harsher parts of the picture.
But what do you suppose Jesus is inviting you and me into?
Are we not being welcomed into his family?
Would you really rather just be hired for the day?