“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place;
and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.
Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.’
And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder,
saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Matt 20: 1-16
This story is usually quoted to show that God’s generosity is quite different to ours. It goes way beyond what we would do or expect. That’s true.
But I winder if there’s something we miss in looking at the story through that particular prism. The labourers called at the eleventh hour had been standing there all day. No one had hired them until the last moment. Whose fault is that? As Milton said: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Sometimes we will need to spring into action. Other times, we’re not needed. It is the being ready to spring into action that matters. We should remember this and defend the unemployed when certain sectors of society criticse them for laziness.
When we appear to be unwanted, may we wait with patient anticipation, prepared to do what is needed when our time comes.