In the parable of the vineyard, the Lord hires workers at five different times during the day. Although he agrees to pay the first group a penny, the scripture recounts no such conversation with the other groups. At the end of the day he pays them each a penny for their work. When the early hires see this, they complain. The Lord rebukes them, saying, “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee” (Matthew 20:13-14).
While this parable is already poignant and insightful on its own, we can also learn more from it when we view it in tandem with another allegory about a vineyard. Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon tells the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees. In this story, the focus is on the trees, rather than the laborers in the vineyard, but there are a few lines which give us insight into who these laborers are: “[they] did go and labor with their mights” and “they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things” (Jacob 5:72).
Although the laborers in Matthew were hired at different times of the day, Jacob describes that each of them was hardworking and obedient in the time they had. I love how Leslie Graff’s illustration “Allegory Revisited” is the perfect illustration of this. She uses a gold background, a symbol used in many religious artworks to denote a heavenly space. The trees are featured prominently and the workers are alluded to with the health and beauty of these trees. Through their consecrated efforts they helped the vineyard flourish.
There are real life applications for these stories, as well. As we work together, looking beyond our differences and instead seeking common ground, understanding, and empathy, I believe that we, too, can make the Lord’s vineyard a more heavenly place.-Emma Belnap