Painting of: Vincent van Gogh, Red Vineyard at Arles, 1888
You also go and work in my vineyard
Mathew 20: 1-16
Today, through the parable of the landowner, Jesus himself helps us to deepen God’s mercy and His justice in order that our life is fulfilled by gratitude. Besides that, our understanding of justice is also enlarged so that in our daily activities, we can be just and merciful toward our fellow and other creatures. By being just and merciful toward life, the envy that steals the joy of the heart is kicked and we let ourselves be the first without falling to the last one.
The parable of the landowner describes how God’s mercy works and saves the men. It is narrated that there were three groups of people: people of nine of the morning, people of the noon, and people of the evening. Actually, all of them had no work at all and needed someone who hired them. The landowner truly was a busy man and a rich man. He did not have time to search for workers because he spent his time concentrating on how his vineyard produced good fruit. He stayed in his house or in his vineyard. To search for the workers, he could order his assistant to do it. But the great is this landowner himself went to the market and would hire the unworking men there. He went three times a day so it means he went to market not just for accident things or only for trivial business but really to search for unworking men so that they could work in his vineyard and got the money for the living. The landowner knew and felt well the social situation: the men who did not have work could not live well; they would be poor; their positions would be marginal in society. This attitude of the landowner revealed his heart and his disposition: he was a man of compassion; he was a man of mercy. The landowner is God himself; God is God of mercy. The landowner searching for the workers all day means God is actively searching and is helping men so that men can have a full life. There are men who hope for the job, pray for help. And the same time His mercy is hunting down to save them actively. The manifestations of his mercies are as many times said by the psalmist that the Lord has eyes for the blind and ear for the cry and hears them and rescues them from their distress; he delivers men from distress. So, these three groups of people that are working in vineyards and receiving the denarius are the realities told by the psalmist.
We can explore also the meaning of time and space through the parable of landowner. Time under God is the time of His mercy. The time of His mercy is all the time because he went to the market three times: in the morning, in the noon, and in the evening. All-time and the entire time show His active mercy and his active mercy is from the beginning until the end. Why? From the beginning, the His mercy works and saves the men. That is why the landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And His mercy is still continuing at the present time because he hired the people of the noon. From the last group, we can delineate that at the last minute the His mercy still saves the men. If the last group does not work because it is the final day, so it will be miserable for their entire life. But His mercy still comes down to them at the last minute of the day: About five in the afternoon, he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ You also go and work in my vineyard. Past time, present time, future time declare His mercy and time is the time of salvation under His mercy. Everything starts with mercy and everything ends with mercy. These three groups who worked in his vineyard show that His mercy happens in all places. Where we stand in any place, there is the mercy of God. In all the moments of life, God’s mercy is present. Every place under His mercy turns to be a vineyard. Time and space are united under His mercy and are also the source of His mercy and of salvation.
These three groups who have worked in the vineyard represent his mercy for everyone, to all people. God’s mercy delivers all men from every nation, tribe and is equal to all men without the difference. All of us are the children of our merciful Father. His mercy is like a sweet grape that can be chewed by everyone.
His mercy reveals His justice; that there is an affinity between His mercy and His justice. What is His justice? His justice is His mercy. His mercy is His justice; God’s justice is stuffed by His mercy. His justice is not equality based on right or men’s expectations counting on self-centered. Compare: who is the businessman that hires the workers who work one hour but receiving the whole day of salary? Then, in the eyes of the workers is God injustice? No. There is an agreement between the landowner and the workers. The landowner had paid the agreement without violating their right. It is the boss’s privilege to give bonuses to his workers. Once again, God is justice and His justice is His mercy. Beyond justice, there is charity.
His justice contains generosity based on compassion and love. It loads tenderness and caring. In this dimension, we can say that God is our merciful and generous father. His justice is to love their children.
The protesting workers who are so loved by the father illustrate the unknowing men how to be grateful; the men that have petty minds to see the justice of God. Their eyes only to compare and to be envious. They are the men using the logic of market: I receive by what I have paid so that in the logic of market the generosity does not prevail. Indeed, all benefits if that are possible are for me. There is no room for the brother. Honestly, they should give thanks to the landowner because they can work in his vineyard and are paid properly. For sure, if the landowner does not show mercy and generosity to them so that they do not work in his vineyard, what kind their life will be. Instead of gratitude, this group chose to be envious. Their joy is broken by envy and by comparing with other groups also by accounting on market logic. The result is that men understand justice based only the comparison. I should receive more; I should have a better life; I should be more successful. They are grumbling for God’s justice received by the other. Meanwhile, they have also received justice, they have been also saved. They forget the caring love of the father that is bestowed on them. Why then they are grumbling for God’s mercy to all people? They should be happy because of our merciful father, our just father for everyone. They should be joyful because their brothers are saved at the last minute. Envy and comparison just put them in the last, they are first but then finally are the last. Why? Because they have been seized by envy and for sure envy causes turmoil in the heart which makes the heart bitter and loses its beauty. The bitter heart has the lowest place because they are in vineyards but their hearts are still in the market.
Jesus Christ is the actual God’s mercy and God’s justice. Jesus is God incarnated justice and is God incarnated mercy. Through his suffer, die, and rise we are all in the vineyard, we are working there, we are not again in the market. In vineyards, there is always exuberance and full of beauty, in God’s vineyard, time is the time of salvation and space is the space of justice and mercy. The abundance of grapes, the scenery of it, the peace of situation of it which all of them elevate us to contemplate our merciful Father. Meanwhile, the market is associated with conflict, harshness, noise; in there time is money and envy; the space of it is full of competition of wealth, popularity between each other. Who wants to stay there and has no job at all? How lucky are we, isn’t it?
Let us taste God’s mercy and see God’s justice working toward life. Enjoy the sweetness of his justice; feel the mercy of the lord, be joyful for the other and be happy for the other that receive His justice. Because of His mercy, we become rich; because of His justice, we are strong. Then we celebrate life with a grateful heart for His mercy and his justice; for what the Lord has done for us. May our gratitude be painted by this famous song: Give Thanks
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”