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It is said that when Kim Novak asked Alfred Hitchcock what motivates her character in Vertigo, he answered “Your paycheck.”

Money is, indeed, a motivator, and it is nice to get paid for what you like to do. But Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), which I love for its simple economy and wacky bookkeeping, teaches us that there is a currency more valuable than money: Grace. God’s generous grace.


Too much of a good thing


The vineyard’s fruit was growing abundantly, Jesus tells his audience, and people were recruited to harvest it. Fair wages were negotiated and idle hands put to work. But they were overwhelmed. It seemed there was too much of a good thing when the yield of the vine turned out to be more fruitful (fruit-full) than expected and, out of necessity, additional hands were hired throughout the day — the last, arriving an hour before quitting time.

At the end of the shift, the daylong workers complained when they observed that their pay was the same as those who worked only one hour. Equal pay for not equal time (1/12th of the time, to be precise). Yet none of this was known during the actual work, when the grapes they plucked and ate along the way were sweet. When the sunshine was warm and the water flowed and the evening breeze was cool against their skin and there was music somewhere and sounds of laughing children. (I’m embellishing a little here, but they were happy then.)

What’s it to you how I use my money? the landowner asks. I paid you what I said I would.


For the fruit of all creation


Of course, the Parable of the Vineyard should not be used to justify unfair and unethical employment standards. But it can give us insight into the generosity of a prodigal God whose unorthodox and broad business sense doesn’t operate within our models. Whose every last dollar would be spent on care and provision for every last child.

It contains a lesson we need to remember, because like the grumbling employees, we become envious of others’ good fortune and forget to count our own. We want to compare and add and subtract from a balance sheet that is not ours.

May we be thankful to the Creator for a design that includes opportunity and wherewithal to work, neighbors to care and share with, and the dignity and worth of having purpose in God’s vineyard. May it be so for all people.

“For the Fruit of All Creation” is one of my favorite hymns and touches on these topics:


For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God;
for the gifts of every nation,
thanks be to God;
for the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe-keeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor,
God’s will is done;
in the help we give our neighbor,
God’s will is done;
in our world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God’s will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God;
for the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Words: Fred Pratt Green, 1970
Music: AR HYD Y NOS (Welsh tune)


Love, Mercy, and Grace


God of the Vineyard —
When we are concerned more about ourselves than others,
Meet our anger with your steadfast love.
When we get envious of your generosity,
Meet our grumbling with your abundant mercy.
When we see others as intimidating opponents,
Meet our indignance with your unending grace.

(Prayer by Brittany Stillwell)

When evening comes to the vineyard, may we count among our blessings God’s love and mercy and grace. Amen.