Today Is Value-Pricing Sunday

OK, not exactly, but if there were such a designation, today would be the day.

This is the Gospel read in all Roman Catholic Churches throughout the world.

Matthew 20

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Most interpret this as demonstrating the generous nature of God (which it certainly is), but adding an assumption (which is clearly NOT in the text) offers a more economic exegesis.

Perhaps the owner of the vineyard believed there to be a frost coming that evening which would destroy the unharvested grapes. This would make the grapes gathered later in the day of much greater value to him. Value is subjective!

What I find fascinating is that it is one of the few economics lessons in the Christian Bible – only appearing in the Gospel of Matthew. It is clearly a refutation of Marx’ Labor Theory of Value written 18 centuries early. Lastly, it is certainly classically liberal in that the owner is free to do with his money as he sees fit.


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