Isn’t human nature interesting? It doesn’t matter how good of a deal we get, if someone else gets a better deal than us – we’re not usually happy about it, are we?
For example, let’s say that you decided to buy a brand new truck, and being the shrewed negotiator that you are, you manage to convince the dealer to sell you the truck for $10,000 less than what it’s really worth. You’d be pretty pleased with the deal you got, right?
But then, what if, after you got your truck and you’re feeling great about the deal you got – what if you found out that your friend went to that same dealer and got the exact same truck for $5000 less than what you paid?
Now be honest: Would you be happy that your friend got such a good deal – or would you be upset that you had to pay $5000 more than he did?
Seconds ago you were very pleased with the deal you got – now you’re upset over the same deal!
So why is that? Why is it that no matter how well things are going for us, if someone else seems to have something better, we get jealous and envious?
Well, Jesus once told a parable that addresses this very issue. This is one of those “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…. This” stories. It’s found in Matthew chapter 20. And I want to read that for you today. Starting in verse 1, Jesus begins the story like this…
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner,12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
And that’s where Jesus ends the story. It’s quite a pointed question at the end, isn’t it? Very applicable to us… In fact, this story illustrates exactly the problem that we’ve been talking about.
So let’s walk through the story and point out a couple things along the way.
The story begins with a man going out and hiring a few men to spend the day working in his vineyard. Now that in itself was a quite a blessing to these men. Back then it would be very common not to have a regular job that you go to every day, but rather, you would get hired on a day-by-day basis. All the men looking for work would gather and hang out in the marketplaces hoping to get hired for the day by a local farmer or businessmen so that they would be able to buy food for their families. Of course, there was no guarantee of work – and thus no guarantee of pay that day.
So the fact that these men were hired at all on this day was already a blessing. I imagine these fellows would have been quite pleased to earn a days wage. There would have been many men who wouldn’t get the chance to work and earn anything that day. So these guys would have been pretty happy to have been hired by this vineyard owner.
If that’s where the story ended, I’m sure these men would have eagerly worked all day and then gone home with their money – very happy they were hired and very satisfied with their wages.
But of course, that’s not where the story ends. It just so happened that the vineyard owner traveled through the market several times throughout that day – at 9:00am, at noon, at three, and even at 5:00pm – and each time he finds men standing around doing nothing – so he offers them all a chance to work in his vineyard that day – even if it’s only for an hour or so.