In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. A landowner goes about the village, offering one denarius for a day’s worth of work. Early in the morning, the landowner hires workers who agree to the terms. Then, the landowner goes out for more workers. He sends workers back to his vineyard at nine in the morning, noon, three, and five o’clock.
When it comes time to pay the workers, the landowner directs his foreman to pay the last ones hired first and work his way to the first ones hired. The workers hired at five o’clock came forward and each got one denarius. Seeing this, the workers that had been there since the morning thought they would get more than a single denarius.
The foreman hands every worker one denarius, regardless of the time they started working. Those who were there earliest complained this was unfair, to which the landowner answered: “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?” The parable ends with the phrase, “The first will be last, and the last will be first.”
What can we learn from this parable? It’s a message of hope to the downtrodden, poor, and hopeless workers who are still unemployed at the end of the day. For those of us who feel hopeless, we may find comfort in the fact that God will give us what we need. For those who feel jealous of others, we can learn to be happy when others receive unexpected benefits.