"Begin with the last group and end with the first." —Matthew 20:8
Let's look at the parable of the laborers through the lens of discipleship. Jesus is always discipling His apostles, and the apostles are the ones who have been working the longest in the vineyard. Viewed from the context of discipleship, Jesus never misses an opportunity to teach His disciples about mercy. After all, it is mercy He desires (Mt 9:13), even more than the sacrifice of working long hours in His service (Mt 20:1-2).
So, in the interests of teaching His disciples about mercy, Jesus takes His faithful servants, who have worked all "day in the scorching heat" (Mt 20:12) and sits them at His feet to teach them more about His favorite subject, the mercy of God. This entire parable is meant to teach us who work long and hard for Him about mercy. That's why we long-time workers must sit and watch the short-timers receive God's mercy and generosity. If we focus on little things, like the amounts of money doled out, we miss the most important things, which are the joy of the Master in being generous, and the lesson Jesus is teaching us that "mercy triumphs over" justice (Jas 2:13).
It's so much a part of our human nature to be caught up in fairness and justice. That's why so many people struggle with this parable, thinking that God treated the hard workers unfairly. If we realize that God is always teaching us about mercy, we will look not at the Master's money when He passes it out, but at His face (Heb 3:1), which shines with joy whenever He shows mercy. We will celebrate the mercy of God (Lk 15:32) and delight in mercy (Mi 7:18) as He does, because He "is rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4).
Prayer: Father, may I never allow my selfishness to distract me from your lessons about mercy.
Promise: "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." —Mt 20:16
Praise: Barbara's husband came to the faith after her and went on to his reward before. She rejoiced in God's mercy to him.
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, February 8, 2005
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