Unfair Labor Practices

by Andrew Forrest

Introduction–Jesus is not Santa Claus

Haven’t you ever wondered why, since Jesus was such a nice guy, meek and mild; since Jesus is basically Santa Claus in sandals and a bath robe; since Jesus never wanted to hurt anyone’s feeling–haven’t you ever wondered why Jesus was killed? Jesus wasn’t killed by accident; Jesus was killed because the things he did and said caused people to hate him. Matthew 19-20 is a good example of the sort of things Jesus said that got him killed, because these 2 chapters contain some difficult, explosive teachings from Jesus. In 2019 at Munger, we’re reading through the Gospels over the course of the year, with short readings assigned each weekday. So, each weekday I’ve been trying to write a brief commentary to go along with that day’s Gospel reading. I’m a few days behind, so I’m going to post my comments on Matthew 19-20 in 3 separate posts, one after the other; to understand Matthew 19-20, we need to look at all of Jesus’s teachings together, so be sure to check out each of the 3 posts. Part 1 is about Jesus, Marriage, and Divorce; Part 2 is about whether Jesus would ever turn someone away [the rich young ruler]; this is Part 3: about a truly explosive, troubling parable [the laborers in the vineyard].

Unfair Labor Practices

I remember the first time I really heard the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. I was in seminary, and it was the first time I understood the explosive nature of the teaching of Jesus. This parable does not make you feel good, and the more you think about it, the more disturbing it seems. It just seems fundamentally unfair that the people who have labored all day in the hot sun get paid the same as those who only put in an hour of work at the close of the day.

Maybe that’s the point: there is something about the kingdom of heaven that just doesn’t fit with how we think things should be. And, considering what a mess we’ve made of things, maybe that’s very good news.

Scripture Passage:

Matthew 20:1-16

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