Gospel of Saint Matthew chapters 20-21 depicts three images of the vineyards. Each of the images of the vineyard has hidden messages that Jesus somehow didn't speak openly but allowed his hearers to reflect upon and decoded for themselves to learn from what he said. The hidden messages seemed to say that conflicts of a society had their roots deep within, not of a society, but deep within the hearts of persons who lived in that society. In other words, a society had problems because people who lived in that society created them, not the society itself. To fix the problems of the society people in that society need a conversion of the hearts, not the society itself. Jesus used these external conflicts of the society to help his hearers reflect upon the internal conflicts happening within one's heart. The internal struggles focus at solving the inner conflicts and that will restore peace for that person and therefore for the society.
The first image of the vineyard depicts the story of the workers who agreed to work for a denarius a day. The landowner continued to hire workers at later hours of the day. At the end of the day all workers received a denarius each. The conflict happened because of equal payment for both the workers who worked only one hour and the workers who worked all day long. The purpose of this parable is to bring to light the God's abundant generosity and mercy in contrast to human narrow minded, envy, greed and the idea of superiority.
The second vineyard tells the story that the father requesting his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son refused to go to the vineyard, but changed his mind and went. The second son agreed to go but did not. The parable made clear that true followers of Jesus must practice what they have learnt from his teaching. Actions speak louder than words is the rule of thumb. Words do not make a person right and just but actions. The parable also teaches that any attempt to separate of believing and doing is a distortion of his teaching. God requires us to obey and serve others in the name of Christ and that initial agreement is not the ultimate response unless it is lived out.
The third image of the vineyard is a rather controversial one. Matthew depicted this parable in a rather strong tone. It involved violence. A landowner planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. He sent servants to collect the rents but they were rejected and abused. He then sent more servants they, too, met with harsh treatment. Finally he sent his son, thinking that the tenants would respect him. The tenants killed the son to take the ownership of the vineyard for themselves. What is missing in this parable is the agreement and dialogue between the landowner and the workers. The other two parables have agreement about daily wages and dialogues between the landowner and the workers. This parable has no negotiation, no dialogue but only violence. There are negotiations not from the landowner, but amongst the workers. They together confront the servants being sent by the landowner and they openly expressed the ambition of the ownership of the vineyard.
We are called to labour in the vineyard of the Lord. We are workers for God's kingdom. We need to decode the hidden message in the context of our present society and applied them in real life to serve God and others.