Dignity is to equality as flourishing is to equity

Dignity is to equality as flourishing is to equity

The striking thing about today’s parable is the importance of dignified work. The landowner, at different times of the day, was hiring laborers. This meant that some workers worked longer than the others.

When the landowner gave laborers equal pay regardless of the time they were hired, naturally, the laborers who worked earlier grumbled. Why have equal pay with those who were hired later?

My interpretation is that the owner’s goal was to make sure that all workers felt dignified and had the opportunity to have decent work. Those who were hired later are not necessarily lazy; they were a victims of circumstance. They happened to be hired later.

I infer that if in the next day, those who were hired later felt entitled and did lazy work, the owner will not give a full day’s pay (if not outright fire the lazy laborers).

In a way, having equal pay in that context protected the dignity of those who were hired late simply due to circumstance. But in terms of flourishing, the early workers actually gained a headstart; having more time in the vineyard allowed them to hone their craft and improve their competencies. Does this not provide the early laborers more chance for “promotion” or “career advancement”?

Sometimes, we are called to be the early laborers who come before and prepare a dignified workplace conducive for those who come after us. We are called to serve more. And since we have made the workplace better than we first found it, inevitably, the next generations of workers could experience better benefits. Should we feel envious?

No. Because we did our jobs well and protected dignity. Moreover, in serving more and going beyond the extra mile, haven’t we embraced more opportunities to flourish? Did we not produce more opportunities for beautiful meaning-making?

Matthew 20:1-16. Parable of the landowner and laborers in the vineyard


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