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On 18 September 2005, the Rev Norman Wilkins preached at the Kapiti Uniting Parish Church, Raumati Beach, New Zealand on the text Matthew 20: 1-15. the workers in the vineyard. He said, inter alia:

This passage is one of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels that is most certain to have actually been said by him and it is not a case of the words having been put in Jesus' mouth. This is authentic Jesus. So that means that for me it stands head and shoulders above most other passages, for my faith then tells me this really is saying what God would have said.

The reason that I really liked this passage is that the morality of the workers who only worked an hour being paid the same as workers who had toiled all day seems quite fair to me. They had been willing to work, it wasn't their fault that they hadn't been hired, they needed just as much to live on as anyone else so they should get the full wage.

Not only does it seem to be a characteristic of passages that are most reliably from the lips of Jesus that they startle and challenge; but it also seems to be a trademark of Jesus that he is so much on the side of those who are not doing well, and he pitched what he said to suit his audience.

This story would make many of his hearers think "I wish life was really like that" but Jesus prefaced it by saying that this is what the Kingdom of God is like and that would encourage people to take it seriously and try to make it happen.

The Kingdom of God is what people who were being kicked about by life would just love in their day-to-day existence, and you know what? - that's not pie in the sky, it's how it should be.

I also think that if Jesus had told a story to say that everyone was equal in God's sight, the hearers might have been just a little interested and encouraged but it would have been pretty ho-hum.

Jesus was describing a new social order and a new economics and saying that's how God wants it to be.

I believe that this was a simple message that nobody should be left destitute. Everyone should be able to get their daily bread. Jesus is saying when things happen the way God wants them to happen, then everyone will receive what they need to live.

If any of us were like those unemployed men, who were feeling failures and in their case not having any money to take home that night to their hungry wife and kids, then Jesus would say to us "It's not like that when God has His way. You're not a failure at all and it is God's will you should get what you need"

The Church has spiritualised Jesus into a gentle Jesus, meek and mild. We don't know how long Jesus' ministry lasted. Maybe a year, maybe as long as three years. But we know he was executed when he was a young man. That wouldn't have happened unless he had made big waves and made powerful people very insecure and threatened. Jesus may have calmed a physical storm on the lake, but he was a social tornado that whipped through privilege on land.

Submitted by Colin Whitmill
September 2005