Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16
1-2 “God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. 3-5”Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
5-6″He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’
7″They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
8”When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’
9-12″Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’
13-15″He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’
16″Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

This passage has followed me throughout many of my summer camps, but the staff truly put it into practice at Craig Springs in Virginia. We started off the day by going over the passage and speaking about everyone’s individual stories. In the afternoon we divided the groups into teams and competed in an intense round of Olympics. The counselors took detailed scoring records, and right as we were ready to announce the winners…awarded everyone the same prize, $1 to the camp store, because everyone was a winner. Hearing one of the campers suddenly shout out, “Hey, it’s like the scripture!” really brought the experience home.

However, for the main activity of the day we divided the group into 3 separate teams to debate the question, “Should sports or art programs be cut under the current school budget deficit?” Campers were divided into athletes, art students, and school board members and given a packet of research and information that supported their side. The groups then structured an opening statement, debate, closing statement, and rebuttal. In the evening, all three groups got together and we held a town hall meeting on the subject. Many of the youth took their roles very seriously, and became heated during the town hall. At the end of the town hall, we announced that everything would be taken under consideration and adjourned the meeting.

The theme of the week at Craig Springs revolved around storytelling, and we spoke on how the town hall was to show that everyone’s story may be different, but that does not make them any less valid or important to the whole. Much like the workers in the vineyard, what we may see as justice for ourselves, may not be what is in our story. It is important to truly look and value the different perspectives and stories out there, because it gives us each the potential to generate new understanding and build a stronger foundation and relationship.

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