The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard- Rev. Deb Hill-Davis

Midweek Faith Lift

March 22, 2023

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis


Daily Reflection

March 13, 2023

           The White House’s proposed budget, which calls for expanding social services, would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. But some members of Congress want a much different approach: a budget that lowers government spending and provides tax cuts for the wealthy.


         “Get the view from the top. Before you react in negativity to people or conditions, take a moment to lift up your eyes. Contemplate the challenging experiences from the highest point of view. In the appearance of conflict, see things from the awareness of the Allness of life and the ever-presence of substance. You will see things creatively, leading to an attitude that is constructive and optimistic.”

                                                – Eric Butterworth, Spiritual Economics


           Affirmative prayer: Infinite Presence, I maintain the high watch when I hear the news, observe politics, or engage in conversation. When I feel myself slipping into judgment, I pause and return to a transcendent, loving awareness. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.


What an interesting perspective Eric Butterworth offers us—the mountaintop view, the bird’s eye view, the view of earth from outer space that for sure puts things in perspective for us!  This Daily Reflection and the Parable of the Vineyard offer us a lot to ponder as we consider our personal circumstances and the energy of the Universe!  How do we show up creatively with an awareness of the Allness of life no matter what the circumstances?  How do we stay focused on what is ours to do, what lies before each of us as challenges and not get distracted by the energy of others?  Those are some of the questions this richly meaningful parable poses for us.


The parable is fairly long and is from Matthew.  Most of us are familiar with it and perhaps have opinions about it already!  It reads like this:

          Matthew 20:1-16

          The Laborers in the Vineyard


           20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” ( NRSV-UE)


Well, then, what do we do with this story of unfairness?  From our very human perspective, those who worked all day certainly seemed entitled to more compensation, for sure, and no Union boss would ever accept these inequitable circumstances!  Unless women were involved!!! We show up, do our best and expect the Universe to reward us accordingly in alignment with what we believe is fair!  After all, fair is fair, right?  And for some people, that may be how it works out!  I would not know, I have never really been in that line.  And many of you have not been there either!


That perspective considers everything from the energy of transaction: this for that, fair days wage for a fair days work! Kind of like the Pharisee a few weeks ago, who tithed, prayed and fasted and expected his just rewards from God.  But we all know it is not really like that.  We have most likely experienced someone who does just enough to get by expecting to be highly compensated as well as someone who goes way beyond what is expected with much less compensation and no complaint.  Fair is such a limited and limiting human concept! 


My recent surgery in Iowa City, was at the end of the day, beginning at 4:00 PM, over an hour later than the scheduled time of 2:45.  When I finally entered the OR, I asked the medical team if they needed a break or if they were good to go!  They all laughed and reassured me that they were used to long days when they were in surgery.  After asking where my church was, one of the team piped up that they were also Cyclone fan and I quipped that at least one of them would for sure take good care of me!  We all laughed!  These were people who clearly went above and beyond to care for people.  I am grateful beyond words!


They understood the energy of the first line of this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like….”because everything after that line is Jesus teaching us about consciousness, about transformation, not transaction.  Jesus is teaching us that our limited human view is just that: limited!  To be very clear, in this parable, each worker is “compensated” for his or her efforts.  How that shows up in quantifiable terms is not the point.  What is offered in this story is offered to all who enter the vineyard, no matter what time they arrive, no matter how long they work!   


And that is a key point here. The owner continually notices those who are not engaged, not fully functioning and asks them why they are idle.  When they are questioned, they all respond that no one has asked them to work; no one has hired them. In every situation, all day long, the vinyard owner sends them to work in his vineyard.  He doesn’t say come back tomorrow when you can earn a full day’s wage; he says go into the vineyard now.  It is not about the money, it is about consciousness.  In this parable, Jesus makes it crystal clear that our good, our prosperity is not about the money, it is about consciousness. 


When we say yes to Spirit, to our good, to our highest calling, to all that we are truly capable of, then our good shows up, the same for each one of us.  Clearly you cannot put a monetary value on spiritual awakening!  All the good that each of us does every day in the Vineyard contributes to realizing the highest and best good for all of us.  No amount of monetary compensation can “make” that happen.  Everyone who shows up and makes an effort is offered the same thing: the possibility of spiritual awakening.  The possibility of a deeper capacity to be present, and to love, which is compensation that far exceeds any financial benefit.


What Dr. Michael says about the message of this parable is on p. 260 of The Hidden Parables and it reads like this:


           The parable tells us that if we are conscientious-if we have enough faith and integrity, and the courage to try- even though one path may appear to be far more difficult, we will be helped along it in ways we cannot understand.  If we give it our all, that alone will suffice in many cases.  That’s all we have to worry about, moving ahead, persisting, giving it our best effort…..When we do, we will receive the aid of grace—the miraculous, mysterious kind of help that will allow us to get through the situation in ways we cannot possibly foresee or understand.


To me that is the miracle of prayer whereby enough becomes more than enough even when it appears like there may not be enough!  One life lesson I learned while observing my dad’s behavior whenever he was in the hospital is that words of appreciation, kindness and gratitude never went unnoticed or unheeded!  He said them, he meant them and he was always so well taken care of by the nurses, doctors and medical folks. 


So learning happened, right?!  I had an army of wonderful beings of light praying for me—through Facebook, all of you, my neighbors, family, and beyond.  I am soooo grateful for that prayer energy, especially during that 75- minute pre-op wait in the paper hospital gown that was hooked up to a heater!  I went into the procedure calm, able to laugh and create laughter, thank you, Spirit!  And then when I woke up in the OR and could speak and did not need oxygen, I knew I had come through just fine and I was so happy, even with a throat full of razor blade pain!!  Just bring on the good drugs, right??


When I got to my room, I met my day nurse who was with me just for an hour before going off duty at 7:00PM.  What I learned the next day is that my words of appreciation and kindness had prompted her to ask to care for me the next day, when she returned at 7:00AM.  She was a great nurse and so competent and caring and attentive!  She answered all our questions, all Todd’s questions, and we quickly became friends. When I was released, she and her student nurse wheeled me out the front door of the hospital and we all hugged our good-byes!  Todd and Bridget hugged them, too!  There was more than enough good will to see us all through….there always is when you are open to grace and the energy of love.


Blessings on the Path,

Rev. Deb