Blog # 394 God's Vineyard - 2
This is a continuation of Blog # 393 with further comments on the parable of the workers in God's vineyard as it was given by St. Matthew Mat. 20: 1 - 16. In Blog # 393 I expanded the literal meaning of the word 'vineyard' from its obvious literal application to a local vineyard the people to whom Jesus was speaking could have made, to a more broad figurative application to the whole of creation. I think I was led to think this way by the fact Matthew identifies the owner in the parable as the owner of an "estate", not merely an owner of a vineyard, part of his estate, who is going to go out to hire workers for his vineyard.
Until recently when I was explaining or speaking about this passage in Matthew I would follow the explanation the owner of the vineyard, given in the Biblical text, justifying his action in giving a just wage to all the workers and then a more generous amount to the workers hired last
that was an expression of his generosity in addition to his justice. Recently, however, I have come to understand and explain his action, without contradicting the traditional previous explanation, in a second way.
Some texts that triggered this second explanation are these: (Jn.14: 21), a quote from Jesus . " He who obeys the commandments is the man who loves me." This seems to say if you love me you will keep the commandments' , or obedience is an opportunity of trusting and loving the one whom we obey., or obedience should be motivated and fulfilled by love. These interpretations are valid in light of the fact commandments are expressions of the commanding person's will or desire, and love involves a desire and an effort to be close to someone and to please them in fulfilling their desires. If you love someone you will keep their commandments , as Jesus always did in whatever it was the Father commanded Him to do.
Jn, 14: 31 "the world must know that I love the Father and do as the Father has commanded me, Come, let us be on our way." And He led them to Gethsemane, where He told the Father He would prefer some other way than crucifixion to save the world that would not include the sinful acts of those who were going to crucify Him, but He would be obedient to the Father's will because of His love. (Mat. 26: 39).
This is how all will know that you are my disciples: your love for one another." , not your obedience. (Jn, 13: 35). The Pharisees were constantly flaunting their obedience and opposing Jesus as well because they were motivated by selfish interests rather than by love in their obedience to the law. (Luke 18 12.
I used to see the act of Jesus laying down His life on Calvary as an act of loving obedience. Recently I have come to see it more correctly as an act of obedient love. The difference identified in those two attitudes is exemplified in the case of two people who may be working at check-out counters in one of our local grocery stores. Both of them are good workers in the sense they work accurately and fast in checking and bagging our groceries. One of them however gives no recognizeable evidence he or she has any personal relationship or awareness of us as customers. The other smiles or is willing to accept our friendly smile, or in some way recognizes us as a person with whom he or she has a personal relationship. Jesus did not introduce us to the theology of the crucifixion by saying watch me suffer but rather there is no greater love a person can have than to lay down one's life for another. and, then, His death was something freely chosen by Him and motivated by love in obedience to the Father. ( Jn. 19 11".
Now, to apply this to the different categories of workers in the parable we are discussing, and then to ourselves. The workers who worked all day were working on contract with the owner of the vineyard. They would work a certain number of hours and be paid for those hours at the current just rate for the type of work they would be doing. When the work was done they would be paid. The parable does not imply there would be any further relationship between these workers and the owner.
In the case of the workers hired late in the day there is no mention in the parable about a
contract between the owner and the workers. There was a personal relationship between the workers and the owner and the command of the owner given as an expression of his desire to hire the workers,
no doubt realizing, on both sides, they would not produce as many grapes as the workers hired on contract previously in the day. In other words the parable is not primarily about picking grapes and justice, but about personal relationships and the identification of obedience to commandments as an experience motivated by trust and love of sharing the wisdom and desire of the one giving the commandments.