ToGoSudn’sSJtaurs: tice and Generosity
This Sunday’s gospel (Mt 20:116A) portrays God as being both just and generous. In the parable, a landowner hired laborers at various times of the day to work in his vineyard, promising them to pay a just wage. At the end of the day, he asked his foreman to distribute the payment of the laborers, beginning with those who came in last and ending with those who came in first. Noticing that those who came in late received the usual daily wage, those who came in first expected that they will be paid more, for they worked more hours. To their dismay, however, they received the usual daily wage, same as those who came last. This prompted them to complain to the landowner, demanding that with more hours rendered, they should receive a higher pay. Notice how the landowner replied, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”
Did the landowner act unjustly in paying those who worked the whole day the same amount as those who worked only a few hours? No, he did not. Justice demands that we give people what is due them; it means treating persons in ways that are fair, right, and reasonable. In hiring those first set of workers, the landowner promised to pay them the usual daily wage, and he actually did. He paid them an amount commensurate to the time and effort they have expended at his vineyard, and in so doing, he did not shortchange them.
In giving those who came late the same wage as those who came early, the landowner acted more than what justice demanded; he acted with generosity, giving them more than what they deserved. And in choosing to be generous to these latter groups, the landowner did not act unjustly to the first group, as alleged. Being generous to one and just to another does not, in any way, yield injustice.
This may not be how modern man thinks, for we have always been all-praises for equity. But the First Reading (Is 55:6-9) tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways. To be sure, his thoughts and ways will always be higher than o u r s.
The landowner represented God in the parable. The Israelites were the first-hired workers, and we, the Gentiles, are the latecomers in God’s vineyard. The Israelites may have been in God’s fold for a long time as compared to all the other peoples of the world, yet God offers the same gift of salvation to one and all. Our salvation flows out of God’s grace and generosity. We are not entitled to it when we were still living in sin, yet God, in his love for us, called us to repent for our sins and to believe in the atoning sacrifice that Jesus did at the cross. Having thus been forgiven – Jew and Gentile alike – the call is to continue living an authentic faith that shows itself in love, fighting evil and producing good works that bring glory to God’s name.
We serve a just and a generous God. Let us, after heeding his call, trust that he will give us not only what we deserve, but more.