In Matthew 20:1-15 it talks about the parable of laborers in the vineyard. In summary the householder goes out and starts hiring laborers at 6 A.M., 9 A.M., 12:00 noon and 3 P.M. Both he and the laborers agree to a day’s wage and move forward with their respective duties. This is where the story takes a turn. Because of the increased urgency of the harvest the householder goes out and hires one last group of laborers during “the eleventh hour”. An hour later all of the workers gather to receive their wage. However, to the surprise of everyone there, everyone received the same amount despite having worked different hours. As you can imagine, those workers who started at the beginning of the day were just a little upset that those who came in for the last hour, received the same wage as they did for doing an entire day’s worth of work.
As Elder Holland goes on to say about this parable:
It is with that reading of the story that I feel the grumbling of the first laborers must be seen. As the householder in the parable tells them (and I paraphrase only slightly): “My friends, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage. You were very happy to get the work, and I am very happy with the way you served. You are paid in full. Take your pay and enjoy the blessing. As for the others, surely I am free to do what I like with my own money.” Then this piercing question to anyone then or now who needs to hear it: “Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?
So often in life we spend so much time and effort that drains us both physically and emotionally of the blessings that others receive around us. Trying to nitpick whether or not in our eyes, those who receive blessings at certain times are worthy of such blessings. How often do we see the Lord’s mercy and blessing on those around us and think to ourselves “why do they get those blessings when I seemingly haven’t received anything for all of my work in the Lord’s vineyard?” We’re so focused on the seemingly inequality (which there isn’t any) that we miss the blessings that we are currently receiving from the Lord.
This story isn’t about wages and worker equality but very directly about the Lord’s patience, grace and ultimately about His Atonement. All of these laborers received the ultimate gift for a laborer during the time of Christ, which was employment. The parable doesn’t mention the fact that there are many others who were looking to have any job at all but were not selected to work that day. The fact that the householder was able to find new laborers whenever he wanted and so frequently goes to show that there was high demand just to be employed for any wage. Had the last group of workers not been selected to help in the vineyard, the laborers would have been perfectly happy with the wage that they had agreed upon with the householder. It wasn’t until they created an “unfair situation” that they became bitter about the blessings that they had received.
We have all been given this promise that as we work in the vineyard, we’ll all receive the ultimate gift of eternal life through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and ultimately, isn’t that the only thing that matters? We spend so much mental anguish focusing on what others did or did not receive when we could use those resources for much more productive things and utilizing the wage has given to us to better the lives of ourselves, our families and those around us.
We all fall into the trap at times of being jealous or envying the blessings that others receive but why should we be envious when the Lord chooses to be kind and bestow blessings on others? Surely we don’t complain or talk about the “inequality of God” when we receive our own blessings in our lives?
As Elder Holland continues to mention:
“Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.”
“We are all in this together. The only time we ought to be looking at our neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. Not only should we not be envious of the blessings that others receive, we should be happy for them who do receive them. We also ought to be looking for the blessings that the Lord has blessed us with and trying to figure out how we can use them to bless the lives of others.”