The parable of the workers in the vineyard as politics and economics
In an earlier post I wrote about the parables of Jesus in general, and about the parable of the workers in the vineyard in particular (Matthew 20: 1-16). In this post I go into more detail about how the parable works, and what it might mean. Recall the parable.
Some workers come to work early in the morning, others are chosen around noon, the rest late in the day, working only an hour or two. Yet all are paid the same wage at the end of the day, a denarius, hardly a generous wage, barely enough to live on.
Most readers have assumed that the vineyard owner is God, and that the message is that whenever people come to believe in the kingdom of God, all will receive the same reward, all will be saved. Some equate the workers hired early in the morning with the Jews, those late in the day the gentiles, but all will be equal in the kingdom of God (Herzog, p 101).
Still, there seems something fundamentally unfair about the arrangement. As one of the workers hired early puts it to the vineyard owner, “‘these who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’” (20:12) However, once the vineyard owner is equated with God, the unfairness disappears. In the face of eternity, what difference do a few hours make?