This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven: A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard.
He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went.
The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer. Again he went out, at the last working hour—the eleventh—and he saw others standing around. So he said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the whole day?’ They answered: ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said: ‘Go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the ﬁrst.’ Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the ﬁrst, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat.’ The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?’ So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last.”
“Don’t I have the right to do as I please with my money?” God is free, his freedom is sovereign. Otherwise he would not be God. But his freedom is not the arbitrary whim of a tyrant. God does not use his freedom to weigh merits and allot to each person only what he or she deserves to receive according to strict justice. He uses his freedom to go beyond all justice and to pour himself out in superabundant generosity: “Why are you envious when I am kind?”
We can always, if we are absolutely bent on it, assert our so-called rights before God, appealing to his justice and only to his justice. But then we run the risk of obtaining justice—and only that. The secret for being overwhelmed by his favors is to throw away the account books in the trash can and depend on his kindness.
On the last day the latecomers in the Kingdom will admire what God will have done in the lives of the early comers. But it will be without envy. And the early comers will marvel at the munificent forgiveness bestowed on the latecomers. But it will be without envy. Together the ones and the others will be swallowed up in the glory of the sun’s rays.
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