The gospel readings for the last couple of days have left me with reflections of an economic nature.
On Wednesday, we heard the parable of the landowner (Mt 20:1-16). In the parable, the laborers are each paid what they agreed to, yet those who worked the longest feel cheated. Jesus, saying that the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner, tells his audience, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?” One could argue that Jesus is really talking about spiritual grace rather than money, but his point doesn’t work without the underlying economic principle, which strikes me as fairly conservative.
On Thursday, we heard the parable of the wedding feast (Mt 22:1-14). In this parable, those invited to the feast decline to come. The king burns them, then has the invitation extended to whomever his servants can find. When one of these consolation guests arrives without the proper attire, the king has him bound and cast out. This seems to me to be similar to the reports that I hear from the Personnel Department at the manufacturing company where I work. There are open positions that can’t be filled because the applicants can’t pass the drug test. At a time in which unemployment is at 8.3% with a reduced labor force, too many individuals are either declining to accept the invitation, or showing up with disqualifying attire.
So, how would Jesus have formulated a parable beginning, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a factory owner. . . ?”