226: JESUS WASN’T FAIR! but he was just…

“Hi, how are you? I hope you’re having a good day. Welcome to my personal polemic where I shoot my mouth off on religious and ethical topics. I hope you find something to interest you!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

In Matthew 20 we find one of two different parables of the vineyard where the owner of said vines employs casual labour in a way guaranteed to annoy. You see he recruits at regular intervals throughout the day. Think about it – that means they’ve all been sweating away under the scorching sun for him for different lengths of time. Some for just an hour or two, some from the crack of dawn. So what? you may say, that’s his privilege. Sure, but then he goes and pays every man jack of them the same wages – a dollar each. Is that unfair or is that unfair? “Those who were hired first expected to receive more” The landowner retorted “Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” It was true he promised the first guys he took on a dollar for a day’s work, so they got what they were owed.

What does it mean?
(a) The last verse says “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” I don’t think so. We know from other sources in the gospels that this was what Jesus thought, but I don’t see personally how this parable illustrates that.(The Jesus Seminar agrees with me.)
(b) Shane Claiborne, America’s most radical young Christian writer reckons that God may not always be fair, but he is always just. He cites Acts 2:45 “Selling their possessions and goods they gave to anyone as he had need.” This fits better: the owner of the vineyard gave to each worker as he/she had need. After all, rent cost the same for all of them, so did a loaf of bread, a piece of fish,  or a skin of wine. The ones who started early didn’t lose out, but the late comers were extraordinarily fortunate.
(c) Look at the Magnificat, where Jesus’ mum shows off her revolutionary credentials. Turning society upside down the way she is advocating is definitely unfair, no two ways about it. But it would be justice (if it were to happen). A justice that corrects the brutal inequalities of our world!
(d) The Jesus Seminar comments “This reversal of expectations comports well with Jesus’ proclivity to reverse the expectations of the poor: ’God’s domain belongs to you’ (Lk 6:20) and the rich: ’It’s easier for  a camel to squeeze through a needle’s eye than for a wealthy  person to get into God’s domain’ (Mk 10:25; Matt. 19:24; Lk 18:25)” By “God’s domain” they mean the Kingdom of God.

Related Zingcreed Posts
Two red jewesses

Sources:
(i) Claiborne, Shane “The red letter Christian”

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