Jesus speaks to the heart of the disciple and to the community of disciples He has chosen. To them He has given an amazing gift – the gift of working with Him to bring to birth a new humanity and a new community. They sit at His feet, and He clearly hopes that they will grow to be like Him. They think they want the same until a Parable pulls the carpet out from under their feet. It only does this because there is a question, like the elephant in the room, that is waiting to be answered. ‘What’s in it for me?’
In extravagant prose, Jesus assures His disciples that if they choose to do God’s work it will bring them to the pinnacle of human fulfilment. Every sacrifice they make will be restored to them a hundred times over and eternal life will flow into them. If they are worried about a poor pay-off, Jesus overwhelms them with a vision of abundance. But first they have to listen to and try to understand the Parable.
Kingdom workers are like people on a zero-hours contract. They are vulnerable. They have no claim on their employer. The only agreement on the table is that when they awaken each day, they do not waste the gift of a new day in idleness. God will give them all that they need for the day. It will be enough for those who want to continue to rely on Gods’ goodness.
Enthroned in the Lord’s Prayer is the certainty that God will not give more or less than is needed for the day. “Give us this day our daily bread ….”. It is assumed that they are friends of the Landowner and have grasped the truth about God that Jesus is trying to teach them. That when we ‘seek first the Kingdom’ (Matthew 6,33) and pray to follow God’s will (Matthew 6,10) there is no need to ask for what we need. Our Father already knows, and gives what is needed, (Matthew 6,8;32-33) to those who work in the vineyard. But the gift of daily bread bears no relation to the amount of work done. It flows out of the generous heart of God, who is now vulnerable to an accusation of being unfair.
This feeling of unfairness is rooted in a social construct everyone takes for granted. More work=More pay. In this version of reality, I am the centre of the universe and my job is to promote myself and my own well-being. If I am denied this possibility I am entitled to have a good old moan. But the Parable puts God at the centre of the Universe and we are invited to stretch high enough to see the sacred point of view. Only here can we begin to relish the work that is being done. We are, to paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, “burnished in use”. We no longer live in the envious world of comparisons, but in the overflowing world of Gods Generosity. In this world, God gives us good eyes to better see. These eyes connect us to our soul and to the expansive works of the Spirit. Seduced, the labourers flow like liquid light, releasing Grace everywhere they go.