How would you feel? He works for one hour. You work for eight. You do the same job, but at the end of the day, you both get paid the exact same amount. Would you cry foul? Would you feel robbed? Would you have the right to be angry? Then you can identify with the reaction of the men in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
In Matt. 20:1-16, Jesus tells the story of different groups of men who are hired at different times of the day to work in a vineyard. Some start at 6 a.m., others at 9, some at 12 noon. One group starts as late at 5 p.m., working only one hour. The last are paid first and they get paid the equivalent of a full day’s pay. The first group, seeing how much the employer gave to those who worked only one hour, “supposed they would receive more.” But they also receive the same amount-a full day’s pay. They are shocked and visibly upset.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, Saying , These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (Matt. 20:11-12)
Was the landowner wrong? Was their anger justified? Listen to his response!
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matt. 20:13-16)
Notice, the first group received what they “agreed” to work for with the landowner. They had insisted upon a legal contract with him and got one. It was a law-based relationship that obligated both parties to perform their duties and required the landowner to pay an established wage according to a formal contract.
But this was not the case for the others.
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.