“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
- – Matthew 20:13-16
As the parable goes, those who were hired in the morning and worked all day got paid the same amount as those who were hired late in the day and only worked for an hour. On top of that, at the end of day, the vineyard owner instructs his foreman to pay out the wages beginning with the last ones hired and ending with the first. Now, what do you think of that?! Seems pretty unfair, at least from the perspective of those hired at the beginning of the day!
I could be wrong, but I don’t think Jesus was trying to set a hiring or management policy here. For one thing, I can think of how this sort of thing could lead to some real friction amongst co-workers! (It may be surprising but this sort of thing can actually happen, although usually wages are kept confidential and not paid out publicly like that.) However, I think what he was getting at in this parable was salvation, or entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And also probably being content and not striving to be first. How hard it is to be humble of heart, or to get less than we think we deserve, to not be greedy. How easy it is to compare ourselves to others, to compare what they get to what we have, and envy them.