Is 55: 6-9; Phil 1: 20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. ‘That laundry is not very clean’, she said. ‘She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.’ Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: ‘Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?’ The husband said, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’ And so it is with life. What we see when watching others, depends on the purity of the window through which we look.
I hear that there are so many houses for sales around our towns. Imagine you have your house for sale valued for $ 300,000 and your neighbor also placed their house for sale valued for $100,000. A week later the buyer offers you $ 400,000. What will be your reaction? I’m certain you will be extremely happy. But later you come to know that same buyer offered $ 400,000 your neighbor’s house as well. Now will you be still happy or angry at the buyer?
“It’s not fair,” a parent hears after dividing the cookie or the slices of pizza. “It’s not fair,” the professor hears from the best students when he generously puts the marks on a curve to benefit those who didn’t do well. “It’s not fair,” How often we have heard this and we ourselves said it?
To appreciate Jesus’ original parable, we must keep in mind that the latecomers who went into the vineyard were not loafers. They were day laborers who needed a job. The fact that they were still waiting at 5 p.m. shows how badly they needed work. In Jesus’ time, if a man didn’t find work one day, his family often didn’t eat the next. A man who found work early in the morning rejoiced all day, and so did his family.
Why did Jesus tell the story? What point was he trying to make? In real life, who were the early workers and who were the latecomers? The latecomers were the sinners in Jesus’ time who listened to his preaching and repented. The early workers were Pharisees who were angry that the sinners repented, entered God’s kingdom late, and were getting the same reward as they. Their attitude might be compared to that of someone who criticized Jesus because he forgave the good thief on the cross, saying to him, “Today you will be in Paradise with me.”
Why did the early workers resent the good fortune of the latecomers? Why did you recent the good fortune of your neighbor on your street who got $400,000 for their homes also? Why do so many people become happy or sad, depending on whether they think they are better off or worse off than their neighbor? Jesus hints at that answer when he has the vineyard owner say to the early workers, “Did I cheat you? Or are you jealous because I am generous?
We often resent the good fortune of others because we are jealous of them. But what makes us jealous of them? One reason is that we think they are better off than we are we think they have more money than we have. We think they are better looking than we are. We think they are more talented than we are.
Comparison involves our ego. Ego-involvement means spiritual trouble. Here is a sure-fire formula for misery: decide you are happy only if no one receives more blessing in life than you. There will always be someone richer, more talented, or better looking than you and me. We never find happiness by comparing our lot in life with others who are better off. Comparison happened with the workers in Jesus’ parable
Envy or jealousy makes us miserable. Envy is when we look around at others and think they have much more than we do, they have had more breaks in life than we have, etc. We feel life is not fair and we are depressed over it. I believe God is more than fair with all of us. If we want to compare ourselves with others, we need to compare ourselves also with those who have not been as blessed as we have. Always wanting more may motivate us to achieve in life, but it can also be a formula for constant unhappiness.
We need to always focus on the positive, on our blessings and give thanks. God’s ways are not our ways, Isaiah tells us. Today’s gospel reading invites us to stop comparing ourselves to other people.
Ultimately, the important thing in this life is not what other people think of us or how hard we work in God’s vineyard. The important thing is what God thinks of us, and the love that motivates our work.