Continued from here.
The parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is unpopular because we identify with the early morning workers. Why should they get paid the same amount as the 5:00 p.m. workers who only put in one hour? Let’s take a look at the story from the perspective of James, a 5:00 p.m. worker.
At age 15, James’ life had been hard. His mother was mentally ill, and he never knew which version of her would walk through the door. Some days, she would have irrational rages and present a physical threat. Other days, she was so disoriented that she didn’t know who he was. But once a week or so, the mother who loved him would surface, and she was exceedingly kind. James frequently thought it would be easier for his mother always to behave as a monster so he could hate her. Her shifting personas was very disorienting.
James’ father was the only one who could “manage” his mother. His parents had known each other since they were children, so his father always knew the right things to say to calm her. His father was a hard worker but uneducated, so he didn’t make much money, and the family lived paycheck to paycheck. That paycheck ended a year ago when his father was tragically killed by faulty equipment at his job, and the employer accused his father of negligence to avoid having to pay for his wrongful death. Thus, James had to drop out of school at age 14 and go to work as a day laborer, where his large body could pass for age 16. He would go to the marketplace where other day laborers congregated and seek employment by the day.
The one bright spot in James’ life was his eight-year-old sister, but she had become ill. She coughed constantly, and James worried when she did not recover after weeks of rest. He scraped together enough cash to pay for a doctor’s visit and lost a day of work taking her to the appointment. The doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and said she needed to start antibiotics immediately, or she would die. Unfortunately, the doctor was out of free samples, but he wrote a prescription that would cost one denarius to fill. While walking her home from the doctor’s office, James ran into another day laborer who told him of a rumor that a landowner was hiring day laborers for one denarius, so be sure to arrive in the marketplace in the morning before daybreak. James saw this opportunity as an answer to his prayers.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace reclining on a couch with her hand to her head saying, “Life is Hard.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]