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The God Who Speaks: Matthew 20.1–16

During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.


Matthew 20.1–16

In this passage Jesus tells another parable about what the kingdom of God is like. Imagine the following scene: the owner of a vineyard has a large harvest to bring in. In the morning, he goes to the marketplace where laborers in need of employment can be found, and he takes some of them on. Before they make their way to the vineyard, the wage that will be paid after a day’s work is agreed. The sum Matthew quotes is indeed the average daily rate of pay for a labourer in first-century Palestine. By mid morning the vineyard owner realizes that he does not have enough labourers, and he goes and hires some more, and again at noon and twice in the afternoon. Those who are hired are told that the owner will pay them ‘what is right’. And then, at the end of the day, all go to be paid – and they all receive the same, a full day’s wages. While those who were hired in the afternoon might have been quietly pleased, those who went to work early in the morning are rather cross: ‘this is not fair! We have worked all day and they have only been here a few hours.’ One of the biggest challenges of the Christian faith is that the gospel is God’s good news for all people, regardless of where they – or we – come from, what we – or they – have achieved. A different kind of justice applies in God’s kingdom, where God is the judge and where God’s judgement is his unconditional love for us and for all people. It is not or us to judge what others deserve or don’t deserve, but Jesus challenges us to see the world and other people as God sees them, as those he came to love and to save.

God whose kingdom is justice and love, help us to see others as you see them and to know that you love us and all people.

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