Scripture Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” –Matthew 20:1-7
Day workers are a common sight in most cities today. They know the corner where to gather in the off chance that someone will need a few people to clean up a building site or otherwise do odd jobs for minimum pay. Apparently, in the first century, such an arrangement existed. Earn a small wage, and you eat, perhaps feed a family.
I have no work to offer and am more likely to be approached by beggars. I never know what is right regarding panhandlers. The social worker in me says just giving them money contributes to their reliance on a self-deprecating lifestyle. Yesterday morning I went to the grocery store and saw a young woman carrying a toddler in the rain. She sized up another shopper and me choosing the other woman as I went into the store. She was still there when I came out, and she asked if I could give her a few dollars for gasoline. I never give cash.
It still lingers in my mind though. How do we fix a complex world where our actions of good may contribute to harm? In our story today, all who want to work are given jobs. There is no discussion of skill or training, prison records or work history, Just the instruction to go into the vineyard. Maybe that is the instruction for each of us. Every city has places that serve the people of the street. It is our vineyard. While we might not be wise to hand out dollars on the street, volunteering at a homeless shelter will open doors of understanding and clarify a means of helping others help themselves.
Prayer: Lord, you always had time for the least of these.Help me to find the vineyard where I can love like you. Amen.