Throughout his ministry, Jesus told parables which painted a portrait of his Father. Who better to describe him than God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, made man? In last week’s story the Father appeared as the king who forgave a huge debt but expected its recipient to do likewise. This week he is a landowner, hiring labourers and giving them all the same wage.
The Greeks and Romans had gods who reflected images of themselves. Jesus wanted to show his people that God does not act according to human thinking: he loves sinners and is waiting eagerly for them to come home to him.
The labourers who had come first were resentful of the ones who had come even at the eleventh hour and were paid the same. God’s love, however, does not perform according to human justice but divine mercy. Resentment is an emotion that is corrosive and leads nowhere. In A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the protagonist Ivan is a prisoner in a gulag, living in extremely harsh conditions. Instead of self-pity, however, he makes the best of his situation: he works hard at well-paid tasks, he gets extra soup at lunch, he shares in a food package for rendering a service and he smuggles some metal into the camp which he will use as a tool. In his view his day has been well spent.
We all have a unique relationship with God and he has gifted each one of us for a particular service. We are not in competition with one another, for we are all loved as precious individuals.