Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:1-16)
The parable of the workers in the vineyard, I am sure, really “got” to a lot of people as they heard Jesus tell the story.
Think about it.
Some people reported to the vineyard very early in the morning for a full day’s work. Others reported later in the morning, around midday, at mid-afternoon, and, finally, at the very end of the work day.
Yet all of the people received the same day’s wage.
I think that most of the people who heard that story would be upset. Surely, those who worked hard all day long should be entitled to much more than those who arrived at the very end of the day.
Ah, there it is, the magic word: “entitled”.
We live in a society of entitlement.
So many people think that certain things should come their way simply because they are entitled to them.
I see it quite often when siblings discuss inheritances. It is really quite a shame.
When it comes right down to it, Jesus reminded His people that eternal life is not an entitlement, it is a gift, freely given, by a loving and very generous God.
And, eternity is eternity. After all, one person’s eternity cannot be better than the other person’s eternity, can it? Heaven is heaven, after all.
Yet the “entitled” people to whom Jesus spoke felt that they deserved a better share of things than others, even of the rewards of everlasting life.
We are entitled to nothing. Lucky for us that God is exceedingly generous.
FAITH ACTION: Consider how you would feel had Jesus spoke this parable to you. Pray for those whose sense of entitlement gets in their way of being charitable to others.