Are you envious because I am generous? Therefore, the last will be first and the first will be last. “(Matthew 20: 15-16)
In this parable, Jesus describes a landowner who pays the same daily wages to his workers, no matter how long they actually worked for the landowner. Some workers on the parable started at nine o’clock, while others started at five. Still, the landlord was generous enough to each worker to give them the agreed terms of a daily wage.
But instead of viewing the landlord as generous, those who started their work earlier in the day were envious of the workers who started later. After all, why would it make sense for a person who worked longer to be rewarded the same amount as someone who worked less? In the modern world, this is almost unheard of. Someone with a part-time job will not receive the same compensation as someone with a full-time job, whether they work on farms, in large companies, even for their local McDonald’s.
Therefore, at first glance, it is understandable that many people are perplexed by this teaching of Jesus. It may even seem counterintuitive to justice and fairness for an individual to give more to someone who did less work. But as the Lord says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55: 8).
From the parable, it is clear that Jesus similarly describes himself as the landlord, giving generously to those who carry out his work in the world. The workers are those who voluntarily enter into this relationship with God. And no matter when we finally convert or make this resolution to serve and do the Lord’s work, we still receive the generous reward of eternal life with Him in Heaven.
So how can we use character strengths and virtues to understand the Lord’s ways and not our own? Well, instead of focusing on each of the workers themselves, it is important to focus on who the Lord himself is. This, in turn, helps us understand and cultivate their virtues of humanity Y transcendence through the character virtues of spirituality, love, hope, amiability, sorry Y gratitude. Regardless of when we begin to serve the Lord in our lives, the Lord continually invites us to spiritual relationship with him, ultimately to love us and give meaning to our lives. It also gives us hope for eternal life, provided we follow Him and His commandments. And while doing all this, he never retains any of his amiability or sorry to anyone who asks. This is true for anyone, regardless of the extent to which they have sinned or continue to fight. Ultimately, this is more than any of us can ask for. Therefore, we should be grateful for this reward that we do not deserve, and we do not envy others who also receive the same reward.
At first glance, this is understandably one of the most difficult teachings of Jesus to understand. But hopefully with the use of character strengths and virtues in positive psychology, their meaning and instructive value can be more easily understood. If this was helpful to you (or even if it wasn’t) please let me know in the comments. I hope to hear what any of you have to say. As always, I hope you are doing well and God bless you.