Tumbling in the Sand
” And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.'” – Mathew 20:6-7
I wonder why they stood there so long. They were day laborers. They should have been laboring somewhere—earning enough to buy food so their family could eat … for the day. It’s not like they made all that much in a day, and their families would have lived pretty well day to day. They probably didn’t own any land of their own, or they would have been working it. It was quite likely they were immigrants—much like most of the day laborers in this country, still today. I can’t really imagine the incentive to wait there all day long. I wonder if they’d given up and so hung around because there was no point in trying to do anything else…
And I wonder why they didn’t get hired earlier in the day. Were they late getting there for whatever reason? Were they not as strong looking as the other workers? Not as connected to the community? You know, they didn’t know Vinnie’s cousin Bob who could help pull some strings? Were they injured in some way from previous work or life events?
For whatever reason, they weren’t hired.
For whatever reason, they stood there all day.
It’s not uncommon for people to get stuck waiting on the sidelines of life. Perhaps it’s because of an injury, a job layoff, continued injustice because of who they do or do not know, who they are or who they are not, what kind of life they lived. Perhaps it’s even because they’ve decided that they aren’t good enough to deserve to participate.
You see, work itself tends to give us value, and without it, without someway to participate, to belong, to feel needed … well, people are made to feel kind of useless.
So, I actually think some of the amazing grace of this story is that these guys got invited to go work in the vineyard.
It didn’t matter why they didn’t get hired early.
It didn’t matter what might have been “wrong” or “right” about them.
It didn’t matter that the day was even almost up.
It didn’t matter that they had waited—and perhaps even wasted—all day.
They were worth sending to the vineyard.
They were worthwhile.
They had something to give.
And that, in itself is amazing grace. To know that even when we sit all day, even when we feel worthless, even when we feel there is nothing that we can do—God thinks otherwise.
God knows that we are worth sending to the vineyard.
God knows that we are worthwhile.
God knows that we have something to give.
And, well, the rest of the story is just icing on the cake because it seems that God values us all enough that it doesn’t matter what we are able to accomplish in the end, we all get the pure grace of God, first and last alike.
So let us go to work, for there is joy in the working; and in the end, God will make all things right.