Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 19

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Fairness In Matthew 20, there is the parable of the workers in the vineyards: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius [a just living wage] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ [It never occurred to him to pay less than would be required to actually support yourself.] So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evenin g came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ (Mt 20:1–8) You know the story: there was a little grumbling. “Hey, I’ve worked in the heat of the day. How come I’m getting the same as them?” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?” The coinage is not relevant to us. But know that that’s what it took to live for a day. “You worked for a day; you got to survive for a day. Take your pay and go. . . . So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Mt 20:14a, 16). It was Jesus’s understanding of fairness that everybody could eat. In talking about it last night, my friend David Austin mentioned this: this harkens back to Deuteronomy, to the old covenant and the law there, where we wanted to make sure that the tithe provided meat in God’s temple, in God’s storehouse. You’ve got to make sure the Levites, who had no land, who had no way of growing their food, were taken care of. But then, in a pretty unique concept not so dissimilar to what we’ll do at lunch when we give up our lunch money, the tithe every third year was to go to those of your neighbors, to those in your community—maybe not down the block, maybe your wider community—so that the widows and the orphans and the immigrants would have enough to eat. That was God’s equitable treatment of those who grow and harvest our food. Just driving here, I passed Caesar Chavez Boulevard. The modern day saint, inspired by his Catholic faith, said, “It’s unjust what’s happening to these farm workers.” He organized the United Farm Workers’ 16