Mt 20:1-16 Feeling Cheated?
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wages, he sent them into his vineyard…He went out again…at five o’clock…he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard’….When it was evening the owner of the vineyard gave them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought they would receive more…”
The Lord directed this parable to his disciples. Interesting… They must have been having a hard time with something…or maybe with some people. Maybe they were having a hard time dealing with those the Lord was dealing with. Maybe they didn’t like the people the Lord was making friends with.
Well, based on the audience the Lord addressed this parable to: his disciples, and based on the theme (envy and generosity) of this parable, I get the impression the disciples had forgotten what type of men they once were.
Just a few days ago, we read how Peter spoke out about giving up everything to follow the Lord. You can tell just by reading it how frustrated he must have been. But with whom? With what? Was it the hard work? Was it the long hours? Was it the fast pace? Was it the poverty, chastity and obedience? Probably. And most likely it was all of the above! After all, it’s hard to be holy and to be surrounded by holiness! It’s hard to put on a smile when you’re not happy! It’s hard not to get mad when you are sad or when everybody is as happy as can be!
The disciples passed through many towns and visited many families. They must have seen towns that reminded them of home and families that reminded them of their own. Every town, every family, every day was a reminder of a way of life that was gone for good.
Gone for good! This phrase has more than one meaning. Typically, we think of it as meaning something is lost forever. But it can also mean that something is sacrificed for the sake of goodness (righteousness). I have a feeling, a gut instinct from personal experience, that the Lord may have spoken this parable because His disciples had some deep seated jealousy issues. When Peter asked the Lord what he and the others would get for following Him, I can’t believe he was not pleased with the Lord’s answer. But then they must have gotten a little annoyed when they noticed sinners getting the same promises (and treatment) as well! Hey, what’s going on? We’ve slaved for you the entire day, and now you are telling sinners, who come to you - out of the blue - for a quick minute, that their sins are forgiven??? There’s way too much lovey-dovey going on here!!!
At times, I have questioned myself with a very envious question. “Must I always be good? After all: if long-time sinners, who repent at the last moment of their life, will get what I will receive, then why must I always be good?
I don’t think I am the only one who suffers from this type of envy. Typically, you see it manifest itself in “holy” people who are kind of “mean” people. They can’t stand the new parishioner (Who do they think they are?) being treated with just as much relevance as the longtime parishioner (We’ve been here since the parish began!). Or the new pastor coming in and changing just about everything.
Anyways…the answer to my envy is found in my sinfulness and in my ridiculousness. “Must I always be good?” is a ridiculous question. It’s like asking “Must I always be blessed?” Oh my goodness! Take it! Take all that you can! Don’t ask any questions!
Sin is not worth the time spent. In fact, it is a waste of time and of a life. Ignore what the media says and listen to those who have lived in sin. They are the first to admit this truth. And this is my personal experience as well. We are the first to realize that neither lust nor one night stands can compare to the thrill of love and marriage. We are the first to regret the bad habits acquired so quickly and the life-time required battling them.
Feeling cheated? Don’t. When it comes to Christ’s blessings, stop comparing yourself with others. Stop valuing yourself by asking what others received. We are all unworthy workers. The question will never be if the Lord cheated me; the question really is why am I so blessed?
I don’t question a teacher who questions me. I question a teacher who never questions me. If the Lord does not give me what I deserve, then it’s because He has given me much more than I deserve; starting with the last reasons to give to me (my sins) and ending with the first reasons to give to me(His grace).
Being upset and cross is really just about my sins and His Cross!
The Lord’s giving outweighs our worth across the spectrum. May we be the first to be content with His generous heart. Let’s give Him the benefit of our doubts. Let’s be the first to love Him and the last to sin against Him.