This week, I preached on the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. The basic overview of the story is that a vineyard owner went to the marketplace to find day laborers for his vineyard. (note: nearly 14,000 men in Jesus’ culture did this every day) The owner agreed to pay the workers a day’s wage. (a Denarius, a coin minted for a day’s wage)
Jesus says that the owner went to the marketplace 5 times: 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, and 5pm. You and I can imagine the types of workers that were picked first and those that were looked over. The ones with obvious day worker abilities: big, strong, with hands that looked as if they’ve worked in a field before, were picked first. The ones who, well, looked like myself, probably got looked over.
At 5pm, there were still guys in the marketplace who had not been selected that day, and probably many other days. They probably were not as good of workers, and were often probably looked over and not selected. They probably went home empty-handed most days.
But this day was different. They were invited to work in the field, and even though they worked only 1 hour, received a full day’s wage.
This angered the men who began work at 6am. They thought that they should receive more because they worked longer. They “deserved” it because of their effort, after all.
This vineyard owner was different; instead of rewarding those who earned, he wanted to meet all of those who had a need.
All workers, regardless of when they were selected, had the same need.
The generosity of the vineyard owner was more than the 6am-ers could handle.
The vineyard owner was brilliant; if he only rewarded those who looked the part, the world doesn’t change, nor does it begin to understand the true, dynamic power of grace.
Those who are in profound need understand grace. The vineyard owner knew that once the 5pm-ers experienced kindness, their whole world would change. Imagine what it felt like for the 5pm-ers to go home with a wage. Imagine the confidence they now felt, the next day, when they went to the market to look for work, and knew there was a kind vineyard owner who would give them a chance.
The “gospel” of effort will not change the world, but only keep it propped up on its already assumed ideals.
The gospel of the 5pm-ers will change the world.
It’s 5 0’clock somewhere. Someone, somewhere is being touched by grace that never thought would be offered to them. Someone, somewhere is hearing a fresh word of kindness and mercy although they didn’t think it existed. Someone, somewhere is experiencing the same peace the 5pm-ers experienced in the parable.
That is good news.
May our watches always read 5pm.