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The workers in the vineyard

Gospel Reading: Mt 20:1-16
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 wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’

So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give 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 that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’

He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


The parable suggests the following. First, the landowner stands for God. The focus of the landowner is always on the laborers, not on the crop or on his profit. Second, because the landowner is a symbol for God, the parable encourages us to place ourselves in the shoes of the laborers and to rethink how we relate to God. For example, there is a contrast between the first-hour workers and those employed at the last hour. The bargainers (first-hour workers) are working for a denarius; the latecomers are working for the landowner, for God. Both get what they are working for.
Lastly, the landowner’s speech at the end of the parable serves as a summary of Matthew’s theology. The landowner is free to do what he will with what he owns, and he uses this freedom to be generous (cf v 15).

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.