The Workers in the Vineyard – Mt 20.1-15 – Sept 21, 08
Listen for the word of God – Jesus is speaking:
- 1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?'"
Workers in the Vineyard
What does this parable mean? Bible scholars tell us that Jesus didn’t explain his parables. If that is so, then we can understand how it was, that the Redactor, the editor, who added verses 13-15, had no foggy notion of what the parable was teaching. If he had had a clue, he would have had the householder explain to the worker who had toiled all day in the hot sun, that is was, in part, his efforts that enabled the householder to pay the late-comer, a full-day’s wage. And that the late-comer should receive a full-days pay, because he had a family at home to feed, and clothe, and care for.
But! Instead of explaining why he was paying as he did, he replied in a mean-spirited way, that it was none of first-hired’s business, why he paid as he did.
Since most of us preachers aren’t smart enough to figure it out either, most congregations go home just as un-enlightened as when they came.
I think the early church did understand this teaching, because Luke says in Acts 4.34 of those early Christians, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold  and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.”
This is the Social Gospel – spelled out loud and clear. We are constantly aware that poverty is a part of the international situation. There is no way we can eliminate poverty, but that doesn’t mean that we should not work on it. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor.” And yet we know that he was always looking out for the poor.
Listen to this statement: “Between now and tomorrow morning, 40,000 children will starve to death. The day after tomorrow, 40,000 more children will die. That’s a lot of Children – that’s more children than are served by Mora and El Rito combined [the churches I serve]. They are going to die tonight – starve to death!” Actually, this article was written in 1992. Today the number is at least twice that many.
What was the situation in ancient Israel? Were there any starving children there? Remember the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus? (Lk 16.19-31) Lazarus was sitting at the Rich Man’s gate, hoping to pick up crumbs from the Rich Man’s table. The Rich Man knew Lazarus by name. He knew that he was out there by the gate. Now, in those days a table was only about 6” high, and the diners sat on the floor near it. As you can imagine, quite a bit of food fell on the floor, so after all were finished, the women cleaned up the floor and threw the cleanings, and every thing we would call table scraps, out the gate, to where Lazarus was sitting. That’s what Lazarus lived on. If Lazarus was that poor; there must have been some starving children nearby.
Remember that Jesus took a little child in his arms and said (Mt 10.42) “Whoever gives to one of these little ones, even a cup of cold water, is truly my disciple.”
The people of Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, live mainly on fish, of which there has always been an abundance – that is until recently. Now, European fishing boats – heavy trawlers – have been invading the Senegal waters. As usual, they not only deplete the supply of fish – they destroy the habitat, so that no new fish can thrive. Now half of Senegal goes to bed hungry every night.
The people of Pakistan have a huge plain from which they get a bounteous harvest of wheat – enough for everybody. That was then – this is now. Now the United Kingdom (Britain) is buying up that wheat from the big corporations who own it, leaving nothing for the local people.
I have an article about Bolivia – about how the big corporations are seizing control there – pushing out the people’s government, and establishing a fascist state. As a result, numerous peasants are being pushed onto marginal land that can barely support life. People in the cities can’t afford to buy food. The corporations are exporting all of Bolivia’s produce to rich nations – leaving nothing for the people.
This message is about greed. It doesn’t seem like greed to us; to want what we have earned. I think this desire is related to the motives promoted by the Capitalistic System: “You get what you earn.” “No work – no pay.” “Take care of yourself – to heck with the other person.” The corporations are committed to greed – steal as much as you can from whatever source and keep it all for yourself. Morality – ethics – common good – mean nothing to the corporation.
Why isn’t ‘Every man for himself’ a good system? Because experience has shown that one selfish corporation can destroy something that the community needs. The August 2008 issue of Nat’l Geo Mag has another article about the Tongass National Forest in Alaska – it’s lead-off statement is, ”Alaska's Tongass National Forest includes the greatest tracts of rain forest outside the tropics. Subsidized logging is ripping them apart.” A corporation is a group with a single mind-set. I have mentioned the Cod fish, which fed us for a thousand years – now destroyed by trawler fishing, which destroys habitat. In fact, every species in the ocean is now depleted by over-fishing. Mostly corporations with that single mind-set.
No! ‘Every man for himself’ doesn’t work! Slowly, but inexorably, we are learning that what Jesus taught is still the best system for everybody. In fact, we are learning that caring for the planet and its ecosystems is the best, and only, way to provide for humanity.
In the Sept 2008 issue of NGM, there are two articles on the loss of top-soil. The first article, Our Good Earth; Can We save it?, says, and I quote, “Even as mankind is ratcheting-up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever.”
Now, actually there is no way that we can ‘destroy’ soil. What they mean is that it is washing away, or blowing away. This may be nit-picking, but it’s a fact – an important fact.
My mother told me that when she was eight years old, (that was 100 yrs ago) she was watching Kentucky washing away into the Mississippi River. Her sister lived a little north of her on a river called ‘The Big Muddy’. She was watching Illinois wash away into the Mississippi river. People knew then that our top-soil was washing away, but they didn’t have enough sense to stop doing what they knew was harmful.
You don’t have to drive very far in NM to see huge arroyos, some up to 30’ deep, where the top-soil has washed away, leaving deep scars on the landscape. These are the things that we see and know about personally. Add to these the things we have read about, and we can see why the prevention of top-soil erosion has become a world-wide concern.
When we bought our ranch in 1970, it was a prime example of erosion at work. There were no substantial fences to keep stray livestock out; it was heavily over-grazed. Wagons had been using it for years, as an access to Las Vegas through the Las Despensas Pass. It was cut through with gullies and abandoned roads. It is not that way today, but it took a lot of hard work to reverse the erosion process. And that is our vision for the world. It will take a lot of hard work, but we can stop the erosion process. And we can learn how to grow food, without destroying the earth in the process.
And what did Jesus teach? What was his message? We are Family! He proclaimed, ‘We must look out for each other!’ Acts 2. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And in 1Jn  but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
The key word here is ‘fellowship’ – you have fellowship in a ‘community’. This is not easy to do in a species that has evolved guided by the ‘Every man for himself’ instinct.
Jesus taught, “The Fatherhood of God; and the brotherhood of Humanity.” In a sense he also taught the Motherhood of God; he said to Jerusalem, “How often did I offer to gather you all into my family, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing?” He called everyone ‘brother’, or we presume, ‘sister’.
Jesus’ message from the outset has been, “Get your mind off of yourself – think about the other person, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
When that worker, who has toiled all day, in the hot sun, can say, ‘I am glad el Jefe paid those late-comers a full day’s pay. Now they can buy food for their families. Now our community will be a happier place.” When he can say that, and see the truth of it, he is not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.
How important is the Social Gospel right now? Enter “World Hunger” in Google and you get one and a half million hits. Somebody thinks it’s a problem! Enter “World Poverty” and you get a million hits. Yes it’s a problem – and it’s getting worse.
What does the United Nations say?
Quote “UN Article 25. Univ Declar Human Rights
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” unquote
Yeah! Tell that to the world’s starving people!
What does the PCUSA say?
Quote “Today approximately 854 million people in the world go hungry and with rising prices another 100 million people are at risk of starvation. At the same time, 1 billion of us are overfed.
“The numbers are staggering. Today 37 million Americans live in a state of poverty, hunger, and hardship. That's more than last year. More than ever before. But working together, we can reverse the trend. By joining with those in need, we can change the picture of poverty to one of hope. Hope comes through the Hunger Program grants and through our work with partners to collaboratively solve this problem.” End of quote
El Rito is doing more than its share. Our Denomination is doing more than its share, but it’s still a drop in the bucket. A hundred million people are at risk of starvation right now.
One thing we can do is to call or write to our congress people and plead with them to stop wasting money on WAR and ambitions of EMPIRE, and start taking care of our people here at home.
Jesus is telling me that the ethic, “Every man for himself.” will not work.
But, do I trust in this teaching? I do not trust ‘The survival of the fittest’. I do trust, “What is best for the human race?”
So! I trust in the Christian Faith – the teachings of Jesus. As taught by today’s progressives, this means ‘What is best for the planet Earth’. I believe that what Jesus is teaching is God’s will.
Lets add a few lines to that imaginary creedo that we are building: I believe that The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me. I BELIEVE that the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the hungry, to the naked, to the homeless, to the fearful; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to comfort all who mourn;  to proclaim the year of the LORD's blessing, and that day of universal justice so desired by our God.
May God add his blessing to this message. Goto Chap 10