Can you imagine what a business consultant would have said to Jesus after hearing this parable? Perhaps it would have been something like this.
“Jesus, could I speak with you a moment about that story you just told. Do you have a copy of it handy? I think we need to make some changes before you tell it again. You are way off base on some of your assumptions and suggestions.
By the way, you are a wonderful teacher and marvelous miracle worker. You have certainly made a difference in many lives. My hat’s off to you, that’s for sure. However, having said that, I must tell you that you do not know the first thing about running a business.
Paying employees that work one hour the same as those that work twelve will not work. It will destroy morale and have a negative impact upon productivity. In addition, you will have a real cash flow problem before long. My advice to you is to stick to preaching, teaching and healing and leave the business world alone. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I would tell this story again. People are only going to laugh and snicker at your outlandish ideas.”
Was Jesus naive? I suppose you could make a case for it if this parable is about the intricacies of running a business, but I don’t think it is. I believe it is a story that uses a business analogy to point out how extravagant and important grace is.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that grace doesn’t need to influence business decisions. It certainly does. However, the focus of this parable is upon grace as it applies to all areas of our lives.
I’m sure you recall the parable, but let me refresh your memory. A landowner went to the marketplace at six o’clock one morning to hire workers to harvest grapes in his vineyard. After negotiating the day’s wages, the landowner sent the workers to the vineyard.
At nine o’clock, the landowner returned to the marketplace and hired more workers. He did this again at noon, three and five o’clock.
At the end of the day, he instructed the steward to pay all the workers, beginning with those that worked the least amount of hours. To everyone’s surprise, especially those that worked the longest, all the laborers were paid equally. When those that had worked the longest complained, the landowner asked if they were paid the negotiated wage. When they agreed, he scolded them for being upset with his generosity.
Two questions emerge from this text that I wish for us to consider this morning. Answering them, in my opinion, helps us understand the meaning and significance of this parable.
Why did the landowner return four times to the marketplace to hire workers? At the end of the day, why did he pay those that worked the least number of hours first? Let’s look at them individually ¦
Robert F. Browning is pastor of Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University and the M.Div. and D.Min. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jackie, have three children: Jason, Amy Blair and Josh.