Parable of the Penny

Are you guilty of this? I know I am, so when I came across this parable in the biblical book of Matthew, it really hit home. An unfairness which has bothered me for much of my adult life was shown from the other side of the fence.

Parable of the Penny, officially known as “Parable of the Laborers” as paraphrased from the New Testament book of Matthew:

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a winemaker who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. They agreed to work for a penny a day, that being a typical day’s wage in Jesus’ time, and the winemaker sent them into his vineyard.

Three hours later, the winemaker saw men standing idle in the marketplace and offered them a job in his vineyard. They agreed to work for a fair wage and he sent them to join the others in the vineyard.

The winemaker went out again about the 6th and 9th hour of the day and hired more laborers. And then about the 11th hour, he found more men standing idle in the marketplace and asked, “Why do you stand here all day idle?”

They replied, “Because nobody offered us a job.”

Everyone who wanted to work he sent to his vineyard, always promising that “whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.”

When evening came, the winemaker said to his steward, “Call the laborers and pay them, beginning from the last unto the first.”

Those hired in the 11th hour each received a penny. Those hired in the 9th hour also received a penny, and so it went for all the laborers, each receiving a penny regardless of the hours worked.

When finally the first group came to be paid, being those which had worked since early morning, they also received the penny which they had been promised but they were not satisfied. They murmured against the goodman of the house saying, “These last only worked for an hour, but you made them equal to us which have borne the heat of the day.”

The goodman replied, “Friend, I did thee no wrong. Didn’t you agree to work for a penny a day? Take your penny and go, for I shall give to the last even as I gave unto thee. Isn’t it lawful for me to do what I wish with my own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last, for many be called but few chosen.”

I know that I am guilty of this same envy because I’ve always been such a hard worker, diligent, contributing more than I was hired for. If I finished my job early I didn’t just sit around goofing off — I asked the bosses if there was anything else I could help with. I rarely called in sick, or took more breaks than I was supposed to. I was the sort of worker that I would want to hire if it was my business.

But I’ve worked with countless people who were not like me. They took overlong breaks, extra breaks, overlong lunches, gabbed on their personal cell phones when they were supposed to be working, came in late, left early, never offered to help out beyond what they were hired for, and generally tried to get by doing as little work as possible. And they were not penalized for their slackness. They were not penalized for shifting their workloads onto people like me. They still earned their promised wage which was sometimes equal to, or even greater than mine.

That’s hard. Really hard. When you’re the good worker, you will never utter a word to the boss that you feel unfairly treated, but it eats at you watching coworkers treat the job as if it were nothing, laughing in the hallway gabbing on their phone during work hours, leaving two hours early while still getting paid, always with a “good reason” when it’s really just because they can get away with it.

In reading this parable, I realized that if those people didn’t exist and it was just me, not watching the slackers get rewarded, I would have been overjoyed with my own wages. Only for seeing the unequal treatment did it upset me because in my scales of justice, they should have been penalized. But they weren’t.

And I realized that the bosses who let them get away with it were usually the bosses with hearts of gold, genuinely good men and women who cared about their employees. So just as the parable said, I was thinking ill thoughts of the boss for allowing it, rather than accepting that I was working for a Pure Soul, someone so good and kind and decent that they treated everybody as if we were the most important people in the universe.

Other reasons come into play as well such as the fear of a lawsuit which is all too common these days. Bosses do not always have the freedom to penalize workers who slack off, and we’ve become so suit-happy that frivolous lawsuits are commonplace. And the End of Days prophecies forewarned us that a day would come when truth would be treated as lies, and lies taken for truths, where justice would be sought but not found.

To this day, I believe that someone not pulling their weight should be penalized, but I should not fault a good boss who paid me a wage that I otherwise would be happy with.

Note that this parable has a second meaning as it relates to the End of Days prophecies and who is chosen to repopulate New Earth after Old Earth has passed away. These prophecies are analyzed in Bergen’s 2019 Nordic Aliens and the Forbidden Islands of the Gods.

  • Nordic Aliens and the Forbidden Islands of the Gods

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