Monday, January 21, 2019

Fair Pay and Just Compensation

On occasion my father drove into town looking for men to hire as day-laborers. He agreed to give each man a fair wage for a day's work, which he paid in full at the end of the day. This was common practice in Jesus' day as well, and was the basis for a story that Jesus told (Matthew 20:1-16).

It seems that a certain man went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. They mutually agreed on a denarius for the day—fair pay for a full day's work. The man went out again—at nine, twelve, three and five o'clock—and hired additional workers, agreeing with each one to pay one denarius for the day. When evening came the vineyard master paid every worker the agreed-upon price—one denarius. 

"But on receiving it [those who went first] grumbled at the master of the house, 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.’ But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?'"

That’s unfair, we grumble: “Why must we take the heat? We struggle with pain and misfortune; others are carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.” 

When so challenged, Jesus replied "Am I not allowed to do what I please with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (20:15). 

Jesus, who always did his Father's will, had an exceptionally hard life: "The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, but he will be raised on the third day" (Matthew 20:19). 

The apostles drank the same “cup" (Matthew 20:22): Peter, Phillip, Andrew and Bartholomew were crucified; James was stoned; Jude and Paul were decapitated; Thomas died on the end of a Roman spear; Matthias was burned at the stake; Matthew was stabbed to death; John, the only apostle who died a natural death, was exiled to a lonely island, separated from family and friends. 

No, we who follow Jesus are not promised “the good life”; we’re promised eternal life. (Note Jesus' confidence: "[The Son of Man] will be raised on the third day” —vs. 19.] This is God’s “generosity” and our just compensation (vs. 15).

All things considered, it's a very good deal. 

David Roper

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