Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reflections of a Worker who was hired last

Based on Matthew 20:1-15

I got to the marketplace early that day.  I wanted to make sure I had the chance to talk to every possible employer.  I wanted the best possible chance of getting hired.
It was critical to have some work – even just for the day.  I needed to provide for my family. 

Employers came.  Around 7 o clock, I was in a group talking with a man wanting painting done on his house.  Just my luck that several of the men around me were skilled painters.  He hired them and left me standing.  By then all the other employers had left.
But I waited.  Usually some more possible jobs came around a bit later in the morning.  Sure enough, a few more people stopped looking for day laborers around 9am.  A bit frantic with the thought of no work for the day, everyone was snapping up the offered jobs as quickly as we could.  Despite my eagerness, I was passed over again.  Maybe it was my limp.  Sometimes an employer would look at my uneven walk toward him and ignore me in favor of someone walking strong and firm.

Noon came, and I started calculating.  Half a day’s work wouldn’t feed my family tomorrow, but we would have supper tonight, maybe even a few bites of breakfast for the kids in the morning.  I waited, hoping against hope that someone else would need a hired hand for the rest of the day.  A landowner stopped with minor handyman jobs, but again, I wasn’t hired.
About 3 o’clock, my hopes for work were gone.  Still, I waited – maybe someone would need a couple of extra workers to finish a project before the day’s end.  A few hours’ pay would be better than nothing.  But again, the few employers stopping by passed me over.

By 5, the handful of us left knew there would be no work today.  There would be no food on the table tonight.  We waited, not in hope of being hired, but simply because there was no reason not to.  There was no hurry to go home, only to disappoint those depending on us.

One landowner stopped by the marketplace.  I had seen him stop several times during the day and hire guys.  He must have a really big job going on.  Maybe if I talked to him, I could get a promise of work tomorrow.  It wouldn’t help for tonight, but at least we’d have some hope.
He asked us why we were still in the marketplace and we told him we had tried, but no one hired us.  Amazingly, he said, “Well, come along and work the rest of the day for me.”

Anything!  It was better than going home empty handed.  One hour’s wage – it wasn’t much but at least the kids could have a mouthful or two before bed.  And maybe…just maybe, there’d be more work tomorrow.

When the end of the day came, he called those of us who were there just an hour to be paid first.  He smiled, and pressed a coin in my hand.  I looked – a whole denarius!  I got paid for the whole day!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  I could provide for my family! 
Had the landowner heard us talking about our worries and our families as we travelled to the jobsite?  Somehow he must have known just how badly those of us hired last needed that full day’s wage!

My eyes got hot and teary as relief flooded my body.

As I walked away, I overheard some of the guys hired first thing in the morning talking.  They were sure they’d get more because of how much we were paid.  I stayed around out of curiosity.  Just how much did this guy pay his workers anyway?
So I heard them grumble when they each got their denarius.   And I heard the boss say, “Didn’t you agree to work today for a denarius?  I paid you what I owed you.  What does it matter to you if I decide to be generous?”

I don’t know.  I’d probably be angry too, if I had worked all day and got paid the same amount as a guy that only worked an hour.  All I do know is that I am very grateful that the landowner decided to pay me not for what I did for him, but to pay me based on his generosity.

How do we respond to God’s grace, steadfast love and mercy?  Do we look around and grumble that someone else got a bigger share?  Or do we look with gratitude on our blessings and thank the giver?

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