The Parable of the Laborer

IN many ways I feel like I have more experience living this parable than the average person.  A result of pride, no doubt.  Anyhow, I wanted to share a few things I picked up on while reading this parable in Matthew.

  • First, I think it’s prudent to mention an small lesson in chapter 19 of Matthew.  The end of the chapter recounts a man who approaches the Savior and asks when he needs to do to enter heaven.  To which, Christ replies:  “He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  The man then tells Jesus ‘I did all those, now what?,’ to which the Savior replies: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”  The account tells us that the man replied that he had a lot of riches, and left, very sorrowfully.  Jesus then goes on to explain that it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    What did Christ mean by this?

    I think he meant that it has everything to do with attitude.  There are many many rich people in the world who, with their riches AND their testimonies are blessing the lives of those around them.  They embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it, keeping their eye on the prize.  In short, they keep the commandments–all the while being rich.

  • In the parable of the Laborer, we see an account of a man who hires what we now would call a ‘day laborer,’ or someone who works for a daily wage.  The householder (the man who did the hiring) goes to a communal spot, early in the morning, and hires a man for the wage of a penny a day.  The hired man is sent to work in the vineyard.

    The householder returns to the communal hiring place, at midmorning, and hires another man.  This time the householder says that he’ll be paid “whatsoever is right.”  This hired man is sent to work in the vineyard with the first hired man.

    The householder again returns to the communal hiring place, hires several more workers throughout the day (at the sixth, ninth and eleventh hours), all promising wages commensurate with “whatsoever is right.”

    When the day was over, the workers were gathered together.  The last worker hired was paid the wage of a whole penny, the same wage that the first worker was hired at.  This made the first men hired think something along the lines of ‘hey, I’m getting a bonus since I worked longer than they did!’  Sadly, all the men were paid the same.

    Immediately the first workers began to murmur.  The account tells us “these last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”  They were sour that they worked much longer than those hired in the eleventh hour.

    At face value, we can all relate to this.  However, the parable has a much deeper meaning.  It shows us a few important gospel principles:

    • “Many of us have jobs that pay by the hour. For all of us, the harder and longer we work, the more we expect to be paid. But the economy of heaven is different. When we are baptized, ordained to the priesthood, or participate in the ordinances of the holy temple, we covenant to be obedient to God and magnify our callings. In return, the Lord promises that if we are faithful we will receive “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38), or exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God (see D&C 84:33–41). There is no higher wage or reward that the Lord can offer; it is the greatest of all His gifts (see D&C 14:7).”
    •  This should be a message of hope for those who stray from the gospel path, or those who find the light late in their lives, perhaps even in the eleventh hour.  Those who accept the challenge, embrace the gospel, and follow through with the Saviors command, will embrace all the same reward as those who accepted it earlier.  There is always hope.
    • Despite this council, some would still say that it’s unfair for those who work less to be paid the same.  The Lord has outlined the requirements for heaven.  Have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end.  It’s the endure to the end part that is often the challenge.  We have no way of knowing what will lie in wait for us in the future.  I, as I write this, could someday be in need of those same blessings that the worker hired in the eleventh hour received   We just never know.
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