“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard.
“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.
“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’
“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.
“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’
“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”
-Matthew 20:1-16 (CEB)
It is difficult not to focus on the vineyard workers and apply our economic system to the situation in this parable. Every one of the workers in this parable ends up earning the exact same pay regardless of how long they worked. Those who worked the full day were paid a denarion and they were happy to make this money. That is, until those who were hired later in the day and even those who only worked a very short time ended up being paid the exact same wage. Most of us would have grumbled in this situation because from our view point it just isn't fair!
But what happens when we change our focus? What happens if we look at this parable from the viewpoint of the landowner? The landowner gave those hired early in the day what he had promised. The landowner valued all of the workers the same, regardless of when they were called to work. They were all worthy of the denarion in the landowner's eyes.
Let's change the word "denarion" now into the word "grace".
At the end of the day, do we still want to argue about fairness? Or will we accept God's generous gift? It's difficult to change our focus from the way our society works but Jesus asks us time and again to see it all differently. He asks us to open our eyes and see from the viewpoint of the Kingdom of God. Might it be time to change our focus?