Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.' When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus I am given to understand that since I responded late in life to your call, that no matter what the others receive so shall I too. But you also tell us that many who have been first will grumble because of your generosity to me. After all the hard work they have done for you, they expect more, while I expect less. But in your generosity you have given to me the same as they have received.
This then is the lesson, the lesson of your love.
We have been accustomed to understanding that it has to do with wages. That those who labored long and hard expect more pay, just as we all grumble today when it seems that someone who just gets hired gets paid more. Today it is part of the hiring contract and what the employer pays.
But this too, we hear the grumblings of many, why is this one getting paid more, when they've been there longer.. We are not immune to this reading, but the way Jesus explains in this parable the system of paid wages are just and fair to all, no matter who comes last, to who has been first. He tells us that it is the generosity of the owner.
His use of this to explain that any who come answering his call late will receive the same as those who have come first. But he also states that the last will be first and the first shall be last. Because of their long service and dedication, they grumble expecting more. So we need not grumble when others who come after us get paid the same. Or receive the same graces as those who have been there the longest.