This month Messy Church is October 11 and the theme is “The Labourers in the Vineyard”. As usual there is a reflection piece (see below). The doors open at 5:00pm and we are on our way home by 7:00. The supper will be chicken fingers, fries and veggies with homemade apple crisp for dessert.
The Labourers in The Vineyard
Jesus told this story to his followers at a time when they were focused on their own sense of importance. In the story there was a vineyard owner who needed day labourers to pick his bumper crop of grapes. At dawn, he went into the marketplace where the day labourers gathered looking for work and hired a group for the ‘usual daily wage’. At 9:00, he saw that they were not going to complete the work and went back to hire more. He repeated this at noon, 3:00 and then finally at 5:00. When it cam time to pay them at sunset, he had the ones hired at 5:00 paid first and the ones hired at sunrise paid last. The ones hired at 5:00 who had worked for only one hour where paid the ‘usual daily wage’. The groups behind were probably busy figuring out what they were going to be paid if only one hour of work resulted in the usual daily wage. Imagine their anger when they were paid the same for doing 12 hours of work in the hot sun. When they confronted the owner he told them that they had agreed to work for the usual daily wage and that is what they had received and they should not question his generosity.
I think we can empathize with those labourers who felt they were dealt with unjustly. After all, we have come to expect that if you work an extra shift, you expect to be compensated for doing so. This is only just. But this story is not about justice, it is about love. Usually love and justice go hand in hand. Justice is about the law and deals with allowing equal opportunity, equal standing, equal treatment. Justice is important to us. To understand this story we need to know that the ‘usual daily wage’ in this story was just enough for a family to live on for one more day. If you did not work or only worked for part of a day with a reduced wage, then you would return home with no food, or an inadequate amount of food for your family and you would endure the crying of hungry children and a gnawing stomach. The landowner was not providing pocket money for extras, he was providing enough subsistence for all the workers for one more day.
Things have not changed that much in the intervening 2000 years since Jesus told that story. There are men who gather at the Home Hardware stores in the morning hoping to be hired by the small contractors for the day so that they will have something to take home for their families. There are people working in horrible conditions in third world countries in garment factories to provide us with cheap clothes. There are minimum wage workers all around us who need two jobs just to make ends meet.
When justice and love are on opposite sides, love should always be the winner. God is generous to us, even when we don’t deserve it and we are called to reflect that same generous love in our world.