The Gospel of Matthew

Singing the vineyard song

This devotional is written by Bola Ademolekun. Bola is a fan of dark chocolate, speculative fiction and old buildings. She loves quiet places almost as much as she enjoys dancing with old friends. She admits that being an unabashed bibliophile means that libraries and bookstores are dangerous places even though there really ought not to be a thing as 'too many books'. She is also an ordained priest for her sins.

Matthew 20:1-19

The parable of the workers in the vineyard

20 'For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 'About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. 4 He told them, "You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right." 5 So they went.

'He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, "Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?"

7 '"Because no one has hired us," they answered.

'He said to them, "You also go and work in my vineyard."

8 'When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first."

9 'The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 "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."

13 'But he answered one of them, "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

16 'So the last will be first, and the first will be last.'

Jesus predicts his death a third time 17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'


Reflection

"Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.

Out of context, the question above might seem harsh and judgemental? But there is a rhythm to this passage. A rhythm that begins with an employer going out to look for workers for his vineyard. A rhythm that repeats till we get to this question? So, I was trying to imagine what kind of song could be inspired by this rhythm. I couldn't get past a Children's song with actions based on the different times the employer goes out looking. Yeah, not quitting my day job yet. Despite the above, this passage sings to me. It sings about the generosity of God who is the employer in this parable. A God who goes out repeatedly seeking people. A God who is compassionate enough that he doesn't care that half the day is gone, or even most of the day, he'll find space for you. A God who doesn't treat you less than because you got there an hour before the day was done. A God who is willing to take a chance on you after everyone else has left you standing there Finally, a God who sticks to his promises regardless of who got there first. Jesus says this parable gives us a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. It gives us a picture of how God is, seeking, never giving up and faithful to the end where even his generosity doesn't make sense to those who got there first. Maybe I don't need a new song where there's an old gospel refrain that sings: I'm so grateful just to praise you Lord Flowing from my heart..., it's gratefulness.


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