Labor Day parable

I’m incorporating the following parable, which is attributed to Jesus by the writers of the Christian scriptures. Conventional Christianity interprets this parable something as follows: Doesn’t matter when you convert to Christianity, you will get to go to heaven after you die. But what if this conventional interpretation is wrong?

Instead, how about this interpretation: In this absurd parable, Jesus asks us to contemplate the idea of an employer who treats his workers better than we expect. This parable sounds absurd because most anyone who has worked for someone else has experienced being stiffed by an employer, but not many of us have experienced being treated better than we expected to be treated. Jesus asks us to contemplate an absurd world in which employers are more moral than they need to be; and he calls this absurd world “heaven’s imperial rule.” Could it be that Jesus is telling us that we could create heaven here on earth? You decide for yourself….


“For Heaven’s imperial rule is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day he sent them into his vineyard.

“And coming out around 9 a.m. he saw others loitering in the marketplace and said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I’ll pay you whatever is fair.’ So they went.

“Around noon he went out again, and at 3 p.m., and repeated the process. About 5 p.m. he went out and found othes loitering about and says to them, ‘Why do you stand around here idle the whole day?’

“They reply, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“He tells them, ‘You go into the vineyard as well.’

“When evening came the owner of the vineyard tells his foreman: ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages staring with those hired last and ending with those hired first.’

“Those hired at 5 p.m. came up and received a silver coin each. Those hired first approached thinking they would receive more. But they also got a silver coin apiece. They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor: ‘These guys hired last worked only an hour but you have made them the equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.’

“In response he said to one of them, ‘Look, pal, did I wrong you? you did agree with me for a silver coin, didn’t you? Take your wage and get out! I intend to treat the one hired last the same way I treat you. Is there some law forbidding me to do with my money as I please? Or is your eye filled with envy because I am generous?’ ” [Mt. 20.1-14, as translated by the Jesus Seminar]