Today I had one of those “I’ve never seen that line before” experiences.
Jesus tells the crowds the parable of the vineyard workers. The vineyard owner goes out at the various times throughout the day hiring workers, but then pays all of them the same fair amount — one dinar, a day’s wage. No one is shorted, mind you. The owner is extravagantly generous with the workers who came late in the day, especially those who only worked one hour. Fifty dollars to pick lettuce for a whole day in California’s Central Valley is half-decent if you are a migrant worker; fifty dollars for working an hour in the same fields is a celebration! This is a wonderful parable of God’s grace, and a sober reminder that there have always been and still are hard-hearted people of God who don’t want anyone to get something they don’t deserve.
It is verse 7 that I have never seen before. The vineyard owner asked the last group of hired workers why they were still standing in the marketplace with nothing to do. Their response:
“Because no one has hired us,” they replied. (20:7a)
These are the rejects. The picked-over leftovers. The pathetic lot who couldn’t get a job earlier. And the vineyard owner utters the most wonderful words to them too:
“Well,” he said, “you too can go into the vineyard.” (20:7b)
The landowner’s vineyard — God’s kingdom — is a place even for the rejects. Praise God!