The Parable with the Christmas Spirit of Generosity

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is the best example of generosity. Generosity is about giving what they deserve not. Let's us not be red-eyed and complain about the generosity of others. Let's rejoice in the generosity of others and be generous ourselves.
It is generally agree that Christmas is time of giving. The spirit of Christmas is then about generosity - giving much more than what one deserves or don't deserve. Among the parables that Jesus told, which one do you think exhibits this generosity best? For me, it is "The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt.20:1-16)".

It begins with ""For the kingdom of heaven is like" showing us that "Generosity" is the working principle of the God. The vineyard owner went out to the market at 5 different times to hire the laborers. The first one at official working time of 0th hour (likely 6 am in the morning). Then he went out again at the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th hour.

Two Types of Contracts.
However, there are only two types of contract.

  1. Type 1 Negotiated Agreement - Performance Base:
    1 day work for 1 day-wage (1 denarius) Mat 20:2.
    The 0th hour workers bargained for and got it.
  2. Type 2 Trust : "whatever is right I will give you" Mat 20:4
    The 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th laborers were happy to be hired and trust the owner to pay them accordingly.
The Timings and Don't miss the 11th Hour Boat:
At first, the owner went out every 3 hours to look for the idling laborers. But at the 11th hour, he broke the earlier 3 hour interval, and try to catch those last hour laborers. God will try His best to save as many people as possible, but there is a limit. Don't miss the last hour call and invitation of God to receive Jesus as Savior. After the day has come to an end, there is no more opportunity to be saved.

The Time of Judgment & Rewards
When the day ended, it is time to calculate and pay the wages due. 
The 11th hour workers were paid first. 
Now come their big surprise - for their 1 hour work, they got a full-day 12 hour pay (1 denarius)!
Then came the 9th hour workers, and they were paid a full-day work too - 12 hours pay for 3 hours work. They did not complain because they got more than what they thought they deserved.
So the 6th and 3rd hour workers also made no complains as they were all paid more than what they put in.

Is it Fair? What do you think? Do you agree that their complain is right?
Then came those that worked for the full day. They thought that they would be paid more and should be paid more since they worked longer than the others. But they got paid the same amount as the rest, 1 day-wage of 1 denarius. They got angry and complained against the owner.

Don't Forget the Original Agreement - The Owner Adhere to the Terms of the Contract.
Most people will sympathize with the first batch of workers because we think we should be paid more for more effort. However, we must not forget that there is a contract signed earlier. The agreement was 1 day wage for 1 day work.  The owner did no wrong. He paid them as per the agreement. There is actually no basis for complains.

The Red-Eye Syndrome & Jealousy Against Generosity
The red-eye syndrome is about wanting what others has no matter what. If the other guy got 1 day wage for 1 hour work, I should get more. Gifts of generosity becomes entitlements and past agreements were negated. People with such thinking will never be appreciative because everything will be considered as entitlement. They will be watchful of what others are getting. They will be demanding, calculative, judgmental, filled with anger and full of complains about being exploited and not treated fairly enough.

Such jealousy can also be seen in the way we criticize others spending. We are so good at telling others how they should spent the money that they have earned. Jesus encountered such a man in Luke 12:13 “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” We think the guy who drives a Porsche or a Ferrari should not waste their money on such fancy cars but to give the church more or the charity more. But when we are rich enough to buy a Ferrari, will we be thinking of giving to the church or the charity? 

We should reflect on ourselves. Do we suffer from this Red-eye syndrome?

Let's be Fair - Recognize the Generosity
Let's here the Owner's view .....

  • Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? (Mat 20:13)
  • Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. (Mat 20:14)
  • Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?
  • Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' (Mat 20:15)   
The owner is entitled to spend his own money as he wish.
It is extremely good that he is generous and give more that what is dues.
Let him decide who he wishes to give to and to rejoice with those who receive his generosity.
After all, the full day workers actually got exactly what they bargained for in the first place.

God's Generosity Extends to You today and He Recovers all Your Lost Hours
The best part of the parable is the Full-Day wage for those that started work late, especially for the 11th hour worker. They could not start on the early hour because they were at the wrong place when the owner went out to look for the workers. They missed the opportunities. Some may have other problems at home so that they show up late the market. Some may have over-slept. Whatever the causes, due to us or to others, there is no need to blame others, because God is able to pay us well enough, One Full-day wage, to recover all our lost hours and missed opportunities. The only thing we need to do is to response to the God's invitation and calling immediately. It does not matter whether we have lost 3 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, or even 11 hours. God pay us the full day wage. But don't delay as to miss the 11th hour!

Extend God's Generosity to Others
For those of us that have enjoyed and continue to live in the generosity and grace God, let us be as generous as God, and extend our generosity towards others, our family, our colleagues, our friends, even to strangers and to our 'enemies', especially in this Christmas seasons of giving. It is better, of course, for us to be always generous because our God has been extremely generous to us. God gave his best, only begotten son, to us that we may have the very best, His eternal life, through Jesus.

May your generosity brings joy to you and to many in this Christmas season.

Lim Liat (C) 21 Dec 2012

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent. So Christ-like!