The Lavish Landowner

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first."

Matthew 20:1-16

September 22, 2023, Words By: Kristy Humphreys, Image By: Alfo Medeiros

Made Flesh

When was the last time you read Scripture to know God more deeply? I know that sounds like an odd question, but for many, including myself, picking up the Bible is often more about uncovering practical life lessons or moral guidance, rather than seeking to connect with the Creator. For example, in this week’s parable of the landowner, it’s tempting to dissect it for lessons on jealousy, or fairness, or the enigmatic ways of God.

But, this week, I invite you to join me on a different journey — one that sets aside the checklist of life lessons and focuses on experiencing God through this parable. Last time I wrote for the Word from Below, I shared a Richard Rohr quote that has really stayed with me during this season of life. In it, he highlights the contrast between trying to discern the “correct” moon-viewing methodology versus just enjoying the beauty of the moon. I’ve taken this as a helpful challenge to how I approach my spiritual life, and in particular, how I approach reading scripture.

I’ve also learned that by adopting this approach to scripture, we never run out of new discoveries. Just when we think we have neatly categorized and defined God, He goes ahead and reveals something new that blows up our preconceptions. C.S. Lewis describes this beautifully in A Grief Observed: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence?”

So, join me as I attempt to shatter my preconceived notions of God and invite the Spirit to reveal a deeper understanding of His nature.

As I delve into the parable, what stands out to me most is the overwhelming generosity and graciousness of the landowner (aka, God). He goes out of his way to invite more and more people to participate in His work, even taking in the leftovers, those no one else wanted to hire. His abundance is lavish. There is enough room, enough work, and enough pay for all the laborers. So much so that it takes at least 5 rounds of invitations.

I also notice that the landowner’s generosity is not dependent on the work accomplished. The parable doesn’t depict God as some erratic, quirky rich guy that does what he wants with his money. Instead, it highlights that His relationship with us is not dependent on what we do for Him. Again, God’s grace and generosity is not dependent on us, it’s dependent on Him and His goodness!

God is always more generous and always more gracious than I can imagine. His goodness is not tied up with earthly measures, and He extends His invitation to more than just the most efficient, hardworking, and early adopters. Whatever my idea is of what the goodness and love of God is, it needs to be shattered and made even grander and more gracious. Hallelujah.

“…for his goodness includes all his creatures and all his blessed works, and surpasses everything endlessly, for he is what has no end. And he has made us only for himself and restored us by his blessed passion and cares for us with his blessed love. And all this is out of his goodness.” – Julian of Norwich, Divine Revelations of Love

Dwelling Among Us

How is God shattering your ideas of his goodness today? How might the Spirit be inviting you to let go of a contract of love based on work and rewards, and embrace a covenantal love based on the unending goodness of the one who made you?

About The Author

Kristy Humphreys