The Gospel today reminds me of the famous decision of Justice Higgins in 1907, often recalled as the ‘Sunshine Harvester’ judgement from which came the basic wage, our then equivalent of the denarius. Oh, where oh where has the basic wage, sufficient for a man, his wife and three children to live on, gone… the reality let alone the concept?
Yet again we are seemingly faced with a difficulty within the Matthean community for, like its founder, they welcomed “tax collectors and sinners.” This was unacceptable behaviour and teaching for the leaders of the society, even in Jesus’s time. He even dined with them! We are confronted again with striking a balance between God’s justice and God’s mercy. We need both. The parable satisfies on every score, even though there are those who grumble…still.
With our annual Social Justice Sunday hat on, one might suggest that there is also a line that the Master (or should we call him the good employer) teaches: we would like to think that our work satisfies and contributes to our physical and general well-being. The need for people to have work that enabled them to care for their family is promoted by this parable. The 2017 Social Justice Statement, ‘Everyone’s Business: Developing an inclusive and sustainable economy’, in part, draws inspiration from the parable. We, in our changing and globalised world, might be inspired to reflect again on the need to include justice and mercy in our construct of measuring out the denarius for the labourers. They seem to be missing out in the land that first recognised the justice of having a basic wage. In promoting such thinking, we will undoubtedly be accused of dining with “tax collectors and sinners”…but is that not where our Master wishes us to be?