Are you envious because I am generous?
What is it about this parable that gets our attention? What of our experience gets touched? Challenged? Often our first reaction is… well, that is not fair!, they shouldn’t all get the same wage, they didn’t work the same…
In Matthew’s Gospel, this story follows the rich young man who Jesus tells to sell everything and follow me – become a disciple – and he goes away sad. Peter then says to Jesus – we have sold everything and followed you, what is in this for us? And now this parable – everyone gets the same, regardless of when they begin to follow?!? Our humanness cannot understand. How can this be, we mumble and grumble and ultimately, go away sad…
But the owner of the vineyard, kept his deal, he paid everyone what he offered them – what they agreed to. Maybe that is the real question – what do we agree to? Are we really followers of Jesus? Do we let the gospel guide us in all we do? The whole gospel – not just what is easy or what we like to do – not just what is comfortable, but what is challenging as well? Are we like Peter, who says, look, we have done this, this, and this – so what do we get, aren’t we better than him/her who hasn’t? Or are we willing to do what we do out of love – love for God, for others and for self?
When we notice ourselves reacting and getting defensive – do we pause to ask God to help us notice where this resistance or reaction is coming from – what is underneath this feeling, emotion, reaction – how can I open my heart to your generosity, love, mercy and forgiveness. What does God want us to notice in ourselves, is there an opportunity for transformation?
Are we willing to leave everything – our judgments, biases, fears and defensiveness – to follow Jesus – can we be grateful that God is big enough for everyone – God’s generosity reaches everyone – does ours?
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.