“1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This reading gives us a very basic idea of what Christian economics should look like. Yes, there is direct reward for work done, but there is also a concern for the needs of each individual worker taken by the owner of the vineyard. He didn't punish those who were hired late- a denarius was enough to pay for a day's bread and a place to sleep. Every one of his workers had the same basic needs, whether full time or part time, and deserved reward for using their time in the vineyard. Should we as Christians do any less?
Better yet, in a nation where often the profit of the wealthy depends on the contraception and abortion of the poor, where many businesses find their profit margin in pushing working people on to food stamps and subsidized health care, are we truly giving our modern equivalent of a denarius to minimum wage workers? Or are we instead saying, these people aren't worth enough to be given an opportunity to be a part of the culture of life?
For once, I'd like to truly invite discussion on this topic. Next post will be on the preface and chapter 1 of the book.