This story reminds us of another story – a story told by Jesus himself in today’s gospel. As you heard it you may have thought that the ways of the owner of the field were not just. You are perhaps even a little angry saying to yourself that it is really not fair that those who worked the whole day be paid like those who spent so little time on the job. Some of us may also think that, nowadays, perhaps Jesus would not be too concerned about people late for work, taking extra-long breaks, leaving early and not doing a day’s work.
If we are thinking along those lines, we have missed completely the point of the story. The workers who came late were not late: “No one has hired us, they answered.” And here Jesus is not talking about work, his reply makes this clear: “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?”
In fact, what Jesus is saying here is what we heard in the 1st reading: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways.” What are our thoughts? Usually, we think of strict justice, fair dealings. We could say that we stick to the rules. We do not want to be losers, so we make sure other people will not get from us more than they deserve – “in all justice”, we say. To do otherwise would mean to give what has not been earned, to offer something that is not deserved.
But what are God’s thoughts? He is not unfair, he has respected the agreement made with the first workers. He has not deprived them of their rights. But God is more than just, he is generous. This is not easy for us to understand. God is so much greater than our understanding. He, himself, tells us so: “Yes, the heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”
We need to free ourselves from the feelings of jealousy and envy that we sometimes experience. Free ourselves also of the bitterness that comes with them. One way to do so is to ask ourselves: What would our lives be if God gave us only what we strictly deserve? If he gave us only as much life, health, joy, peace, love, happiness, yes, only as much as we have a ‘right’ to. We might not get all we now enjoy due to his generosity towards us...