The parable in today’s gospel passage is one that evokes different emotions, depending on the lens through which you look at it. For example, if you look at the parable through the lens of the landowner, your emotion or your reaction may be that of surprise. You may say, “Wait a minute: the land belongs to me, I hired the workers, we agreed on the wage; at the end of the day, I paid the exact amount we agreed on. So, how am I unjust here?” If you look at it through the lens of the first arrivals, your emotion may be that of anger. You may say, “This is quite unjust! We worked twelve hours; how can you pay us the same amount as those who worked for just one hour?” And if you look at it through the lens of the last arrivals, those who work for just one hour, your response maybe that of fulfillment, that of appreciation to have been paid a full day’s wage for one hour’s job.
Three years ago, I looked at today’s parable through the lens of the first arrivals. This year, I would like to look at it through the lens of one of the last arrivals. This man lived in a community where people were hired and paid per day, and the work they did for a day determined what they and their family members ate the next day. The man had a wife and four children. Before going to bed the previous night, he prayed with his family that God may bless him with a job the next day. In the morning, he woke up very early, and he was one of the first to arrive at the labor market. At 6:00 a.m., the landowner came and hired some of the applicants, and just before it got to the man’s turn, the landowner stopped hiring. Three hours later, at 9:00 a.m., the landowner came back to hire more laborers, but the man was not hired. At that point, he began to wonder if his prayer the previous night was useful. His hope rose again when the landowner returned at noon. He did a quick calculation to see much would be subtracted from his day’s wage if hired at noon. Oh no, no need for the calculation, he was not hired. The heat of the sun was too much for him to take the long walk back home, so he decided to wait a few more hours. Lo and behold, the landowner came back at 3:00 p.m., but he was not “lucky.” To avoid walking back alone, he decided to wait for three of his neighbors, who got hired, so they could walk home together. For him, the day was over, but to his greatest surprise, the landowner came back to hire more workers at 5:00 p.m. The man got “lucky” finally. The day’s job was over at 6:00 p.m. the man had only one hour to work, but he put in his best. After all, “A bird at hand is worth two in the bush.”
Finally, it was time for wages. The man did a quick calculation. He divided a day’s wage by twelve, and quickly made his budget based on that. Lo and behold, the landowner paid him a full day’s wage. Was that a mistake? Not at all, the landowner knew exactly what he was doing. Imagine that the man gave up hope at 9:00 a.m. Imagine that he got angry and left the labor market at noon. Imagine that he went to the bar at 3:00 p.m. to drink on credit. Imagine that at 5:00 p.m., he thought to himself, “What is the worth of an hour’s job? I better wait for another day.”
What is God telling us in this parable? Is it possible that if the man was hired earlier, he would have sustained some injuries? Is it possible that if he was hired earlier, he would not have survived the whole day’s work? Is it possible that God loved him so much that he did not want him to go through the labor of the whole day, and yet get the wage of the whole day?
Let us apply the man’s story to our lives today. Sometimes, some people become discouraged and depressed because a classmate has been made the head of the department while they, the smarter ones have no promotion. What if God wants you to get the fulfillment but not the stress of leadership? Sometimes, people look around and feel their mates have left them behind: everybody is now married and have their own kids, everybody has graduated, everybody now has a job, everybody has a home, everybody…; but what is happening to me? What if God is protecting you from something dangerous in that thing you are seeking? What if God is preparing something way better for you than what your mates have now? What if God wants you to get the fulfillment of being a parent, of that job, etc. but not the stress in them? What if the delay in your healing is to keep you away from something worse? Sometimes, what we see as delay is divine protection. Like they say, “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” My dear friends, I have no idea of the kind of delay you are facing now. I do not know what keeps you awake at night. I do not know what is behind the tears that have created the furrows on your cheeks. Remember, God has a unique calendar for everyone. Pray to remain in your lane and stick to your own calendar. Remember, “It is never over until it is over.” Each of us has a life, and each life is like a book in God’s hands. God is the author of that book, please do not close the book until God is done writing. Just show up, hang in there, keep doing all the good you can, God will take care of the rest. May our waiting on God not bring us shame until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.