Matthew 20:1-16, often referred to as The Parable of the Workers, is a difficult lesson to internalize, and yet it is one in which we all place our hope. The first group of workers, who labored a full day, were paid the same as those who labored for only an hour. At first glance, this parable seems to scream injustice because the labor was arduous in the hot sun for a longer period of time for the first crew of workers who were hired by the landowner. For the later crews to work less hours and make the same wages seems preposterous…unfair.
This parable gives us insight into the heart of God. This is a lesson on the mercy of God. In matters of grace and forgiveness, God’s mercies are given freely. Self-righteous works will not take us there. Whether we arrive at the vineyard early in the morning or late in the day, God’s grace awaits us. It is not unfair for the landowner to pay the same wages for everyone, regardless of how much time and effort they put into the harvest. Everything is God’s. All that is belongs to God. God can bestow grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion…love on whomever God chooses. These are God’s to give, thanks be to God.
This is a difficult lesson for the church to swallow, but necessary nonetheless. All that we have is from God, so should we not also choose to show grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion…love to all? Love freely given tends to return in remarkable ways.
As we begin our Lenten journey we remember our mortality. We seek to be mindful of our humble beginnings. As we impose the ashes on the forehead we recite the words, “from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.” These words are not meant to be ominous or foreboding. They are meant to be humbling and gentle. Our ending will be just as our beginning. As we entered into this world completely loved and free from sin, we shall exit the same, for God is a God of great mercies, choosing freely to bestow grace on all…from the very lowly to the most righteous among us…we return to the heart of God.
Journey through Lent this year with knowledge that grace abounds and love is there should you chose to open yourself to receive it.