You know what happened on the second day? After receiving their wages, those who came early on the first day, were still angry with the Landlord. “That was too bad on his part. He tells us that we are envious because he was generous. Was he really generous? If yes, why didn’t he give us more? Anyway we shall go late tomorrow”. They came very late the following day, but they were surprised to see those people who came late on the first day were already at work. They were impressed with the landowner who gave them job opportunity and who was very kind to them. They wanted to pay him back with their hard work. The late comers joined them worked till the close of the day. The landowner told the manager, ‘Call the labourers and give them their pay beginning with the first one and then going to the last.’ When those who came early, he gave them the usual wage and some bonus money appreciating their work. Then when the late comers came, the owner calculated their duration of work and gave money accordingly which was lesser than the daily wage. When they received it they grumbled against the landowner saying, ‘Yesterday when we worked from early morning, you never gave us any bonus and now, you are giving them the bonus and cut short our money. Again the owner told them, I am not doing anything wrong. You are again envious because I am generous with them. I have paid what you deserve. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
This second day is only my imagination, but still it tells us, what Jesus wanted to tell us today. I used to think, why did the landowner treat everyone equally? He should have been bit more generous with those who came early.
During exam days, there are students who prepare their time table bit early and start studying for their exams. We also see others who seem to have good time and just study the previous day. When the results come, the latter may score same marks and sometimes even more marks than the former. It is not the duration that matters but the result. These workers who were idle in the market might have felt hurt. They were regarded useless by the landowners and were not hired for the work. When our protagonist gives them a chance to work, they prove their worth. They would have done the same amount of work as did the others. The possibility could be, the owner being a far sighted man wanted to attract his workers right at the beginning itself so that these workers may contribute more in the future. Therefore we have no right to question the landowner because he has not done injustice.
But somehow his action seems to be not okay. We feel that something is wrong in his approach. What is that makes us to grumble against the landowner? It is the attitude of comparison. Sadly we are brought up in an atmosphere, where we are either compared with others or we keep comparing ourselves with the other. We are not comfortable with ourselves.
I remember in our earlier seminary days, when there is Bible Quiz or Marian Quiz, there will be some people who study so well and answer. At the end of the quiz, the team that gets first place is awarded with nice prize. Now, all the members of the winning team get the same prize. There will be also a few of us, who get the prize without knowing one single answer. This could easily irritate the ones who study well. ‘We study and answer and these get the benefit of it.’ This argument sounds justifiable. But who are we to question the Lord and His generosity. He can do whatever He wants. He has not done injustice to any. But our attitude of comparison makes us feel bad.
There are several ways of understanding this parable. There are 5 batches of workers coming to work in the field which is compared to the five different stages in the history of salvation namely Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, Moses to Christ and Christ to present day. Some are of the opinion that Jesus attacked the Pharisees by comparing them with the workers who came early to work as against the tax collectors and Gentiles who came at the close of the day. But it is more fitting to understand this parable as an occasion for Jesus to teach his disciples to overcome the sin of comparison. The disciples were fighting for the prominent place, there was envy, jealousy among them. God’s standards are different. We do should not teach God lessons on justice.
‘Why do we find it so difficult to rejoice over the good that enters other people’s lives, and why do we spend our time calculating how we have been cheated?’
‘For most of us injustice is what happens to our disadvantage, while what happens to our advantage is good luck’
We can imitate others and we can follow the footsteps of great people, these are the positive ways of learning from others but comparing ourselves with others will not help us in anyway. Let us not make our life miserable by comparing ourselves constantly with others. God is the author of our life and He has every right to do whatever He wants.
St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (10: 12) beautifully summarizes this message by saying "But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense."