BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa

Janus, a young graduate, applied for a job that was advertised in the Newspapers. He got a job with a multinational corporation and his employers indicated they would pay him a generous monthly salary of $5,000.00 (five thousand dollars). He was really excited about his new job, the great salary package and other benefits. He organised a party and invited friends and relatives to rejoice with him. Other workers in other companies who did similar work received half of Janus’ salary. Three years later, the company employed ten additional staff and signed an agreement to pay each of them $5,000 (five thousand dollars).

Janus became so unhappy that those employed three years after him would be receiving the same remuneration with him. Janus had forgotten his humble condition of life before employment; he lost his sense of gratitude; his grouse was simply: “why should others get as much as me?” He forgot he and others were once unemployed, lived under tough conditions, and desperately sought employment to improve their life condition.

Janus angrily wrote a lengthy petition asking the company to either reduce the salary of the recently employed staff or to increase his own salary. Afterwards, he went around complaining to anyone who cared to listen that his employers were not treating him fairly. Eventually, he forwarded his complaint to the Labour Union. The union investigated and saw that Janus’ employers had not breached any terms and conditions of service. What is more, the union noted that the company pays their workers higher salaries than the union stipulated.

In the parable of the Landowner and his workers, Jesus narrated the story of an employer who went out to hire workers. He hired the first set of workers at dawn, the second set at 9am, and the third group of workers at noon. He hired the fourth set at 3pm and still went out just before the closing hour at 5pm to hire the last badge of workers. When it came to time for payment, he paid them on reverse order, beginning with the last. When the first set of workers came forward they received the same as the last group and so they complained against the landowner saying: ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat’ (Matthew 20:11-12).

He could have paid those he hired late a paltry wage, but he chose to give them the same amount as those who came earlier, because he knew that all of them had similar needs for daily food and other necessities of life. The raison d’etre of the landowner’s action was to save all unemployed people from the boredom of idleness and provide for them a dignified way of fending for themselves. The landowner gave a good answer to the labourer who complained on behalf of all those who felt cheated. He said to him,

‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

In life, we struggle to have more than others and in this unhealthy struggle we fall into the trap of jealousy and envy. When we become envious, we tend to forget our blessings and envy the blessings of other people. A Greek proverb says, “As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man.” Envy is the act of casting an evil eye on the blessings of others and forgetting the heaps of blessings that we have. We look out of the corner of our eye what God is doing for others and fail to notice the good works he is doing in us. Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation for what we have and who we are.

In the parable of the Landowner Jesus paints the nature of the Kingdom of God and how God thinks differently from human beings. God’s sense of justice and generosity is phenomenal. He operates like this Landowner who paid his workers, not just for the number of hours they spent, but for their willingness to work and for the completion of the task given to them. It is this same logic that Jesus used to praise the widow, not for the amount she gave, but for the sacrifice she made. It is this same wisdom that motivated Jesus to pardon the thief on the cross, not because of the last minute for which he sought forgiveness, but for his sincere act of contrition. The Parable of the prodigal son is another good example of how God supplies grace to the unworthy who are willing and ready to return to him. God definitely rewards his workers. An inspirational poem titled God’s Pay says it all:

Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.
However long may seem the day, However weary be the way;
Though powers and princes thunder “Nay,”
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay,
He does not pay as others pay. In gold or land or raiment;
In goods that vanish and decay;
But God in wisdom knows a way, And that is sure, let come what may, Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.
Yes, God gives a good pay and great opportunities to people who draw close him. No one can ever complain of being underpaid. While some authors interpret the Parable of the Landowner as God’s method of sharing grace, St. Augustine interprets it as God’s method of sharing eternal life to the righteous. He says:

“At the end of the world all Christians, called at the eleventh hour, will receive the joy of resurrection together with those who went before them. All will be rewarded at the same time, but the first comers will have had the longest to wait. Therefore, if they receive their reward after a longer period and we after a shorter one, the fact that our reward is not delayed will make it seem as though we were receiving it first, even though we all receive it together.��In that great reward, then, we shall all be equal—the first to the last and the last to the first. For the denarius stands for eternal life, in which all will have the same share.” Envy is one of the greatest spiritual challenges that we all have. The best way to overcome this challenge is:
• To identify and accept God’s generosity in our lives.
• To be happy for the prosperity and achievement of others.
• To learn to be generous and support those in need who have less than you have.
25th Sunday of the Year A;
Isaiah 55:6-9�;
Philippians 1:20-24, 27�;
Matthew 20:1-16

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