I have to earn at least this much an hour. That’s our definition of a minimum wage. Should this amount be raised? Or abolished? Or kept where it is at? Society is going around in circles over this issue. Back in the first century, Jesus presented a completely different idea of a “minimum” wage.
As the Pharisees were circling Jesus with questions, a rich young man asked what he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus saw his heart. Yes, he obeyed the commandments, but…Give all you have to the poor, (Matthew 19).
The rich man walked away sad. Jesus stared after him, It’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. This alarmed the disciples – after all, the rich seemed to know what they were doing in life. Weren’t riches God’s blessing? What hope did anyone have if they struggled?
We left everything, Peter said.
Yes, Jesus turned. You did.
“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20).
His harvest was ripe. He went to the marketplace and found people waiting like itinerant workers to be told which field of which master needed to be harvested. Go work for the day and I’ll give you a day’s wage, the master said. They set off. A few hours later, the master found more people. Go work, I’ll make it a fair wage. And then later when there were only a few hours left, he sent more people over. And then at the last hour, he found more still hanging around. No one gave us work! they said. Well I will, go work and I’ll make it fair. At the end of the day, he lined them all up by when they had begun to work. 11:00 people: a day’s wage. 9:00 people: a day’s wage. The ones who started in the morning were rubbing their hands together, excited for what they would get. And they received a day’s wage. What?!
Hey, the master said. That’s what we agreed on. I did right by you.
“15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
When it comes to God’s grace, the minimum wage is paid to everyone, even when it hurts His profits. He is generous to all. Does that mean we should wait until the last minute to start working for God instead of ourselves? How do you know you will stay in the marketplace that long? You may give up and wander off and be out of luck.
Paul writes about how each person builds on the foundation of Jesus. There will be rewards for the quality of your work – if it lasts beyond this earth or not (1 Corinthians 3). So how will you work for God? Do you realize what you are given?
The story that follow this parable is when Jesus predicted His death to the twelve again. That was the means by which God gave the grace of life to all. And they did not recognize it…they were fighting over power-positions. Jesus healed two blind men. God’s grace is so much greater than we realize.
Do you realize what He gave? His life! This is how we can receive God’s gift of grace, all equally sinful. What is the best response? Thanking God and working with all our abilities to serve Him, even through the long, hot afternoon. Because the kingdom of heaven is coming. And God is a fair master.
God, teach my heart to give up the idea of life being fair, and always looking out for my own benefit. Please help me to be generous, recognizing Your generosity. And please help my heart to gratefully thank You and give up all for You. I love You. Amen.