The parable of the Vineyard Labourers, in Matt 20:1-16, raises problems for us. It is not hard to feel a degree of sympathy with the workers, who had been hired at the beginning of the day and had put in a full day’s work. Clearly, the householder is free to be generous, but isn’t there also the matter of justice?
So, once again, as with many of the parables, we are confronted with something that seems inevitably to cause a reaction in us. Perhaps by now, if you have been following the series on the Parables in The Sower, you will be suspecting that there is deeper message and meaning that will only be revealed as we learn to put aside our typical reactions. ‘Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and your ways are not my ways, says the Lord of Hosts’. It appears that one purpose of the parables is to expose our ways of thinking and to contrast them with the ways of the Lord. In this way, the parables provide the opportunity, indeed the call, to a conversion of mind and heart. Surely, this is the very essence of a parable, especially those that begin: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like …’. Our Lord is calling his hearers to become conformed to a new way of thinking – a new way which we qualify us to take our place in the kingdom of heaven. The parables contribute to a process whereby we become even more conformed to Christ himself. And this process can only take place if we are prepared to let go of our natural ways of thinking, and especially of our normal reactions.