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Getting the Point: The Parable of the Labourers in the Vinyard

One thing we have to realise often about the parables Jesus tells is that he is not necessarily approving of the behaviour of the lead character in the story, far less adopting the political, economic or social policy which the central figure may be shown to be putting into practice. Jesus might identify God with the father of the prodigal son (the parable is really more about God as a ‘prodigal’, almost indulgent father); however, the ruler who tortured his unforgiving servant (Mt 18:34), or the landowner who punished his disloyal subjects (Mk 12:1-12), or the king who punished his ungracious wedding invitees (Mt 22:1-14) are not being held up for our imitation!

Even the behaviour of a shepherd who abandons his flock on the hillside in order to look for a sheep that has got itself lost (Mt 18:10-14) may be considered verging on recklessness, although Jesus’ comparison of God with such a shepherd shows vividly to what lengths God is prepared to go to save individuals. Nor is Jesus in his parables necessarily supporting or approving of the political, economic or social conditions of his environment, such as the banking system (Mt 25:27), or the labour market (Mt 20: 1-2), or the institution of slavery (Mt 18:23); although today sociologists probe the details and social presuppositions of the parables to learn more about Israelite society.

Source: Thinkingfaith

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