Leadership from the Landowner

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the story of a landowner who spends his day hiring workers to harvest his vineyard. At the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same wage; those who worked all day and those who worked a few hours. I used to get annoyed at this story, because I didn’t get it. I grumbled with the workers, “Unfair!”

The point is inclusion.

But now, this story makes me so happy. Jesus starts his tale with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” This story is teaching those listening, the Jews, something they don’t know about God’s kingdom. Throughout the writings of God, the metaphor of the vineyard is used to explain God’s kingdom. Up until the advent of Jesus, God’s kingdom was the nation of Israel. Israel was the vineyard. But now, Jesus is revealing that the vineyard is much bigger… and better.

Israel alone isn’t the kingdom. Sure, they’ve been involved with the kingdom since the start of the day, but God will “hire” more workers and we will all receive the same “pay.” That worker added on at the end of the day? That’s me… And anyone else not of Jewish birth who seeks entrance to His kingdom.

The landowner is a great leader.

But lets take a closer look at the landowner, the leader of the vineyard. This man has a job to complete, yet the task at hand does not deter him from looking out for the people involved. He doesn’t pick only the best workers: the prompt, early-risers who show up at daybreak. He goes back for those who straggle in at mid-morning, noon and even hires the “pickins,” those no one would hire at the end of the day.

  • A leader gets everybody involved.

When its time to pay his employees, the landowner is generous. Since I believe the point of this parable is inclusion, or entrance  to the kingdom (salvation), I don’t believe it negates the principle of “sowing and reaping.” Elsewhere, rewards according to works are taught. A leader does reward according to merit, but he is generous to all. Even those who don’t put out as much as the others. Generous how? With his time, his praise, his encouragement, his appreciation and even his wallet.

  • A leader gives generously, even to those less deserving.

Naturally, those in the story who worked longer feel shafted. They grumble and complain to the landowner that he is being unfair. How does the leader respond to criticism? Does he cave to their demands? How does he defend himself? First, he calls those who criticize him, “Friends.” He speaks kindly to them. He addresses their complaint and answers it with clarity. But, he doesn’t allow fear of what they think of him to change his mind.

  • A leader understands he can’t please everyone, yet he treats everyone with kindness.

Its a challenge to lead this way!

I’ll be honest. I’m not quick to give praise if I don’t think a person did their (hr-mph, I said I’d be honest) my idea of best.  I have often been unkind to a grumbler. I usually pick those I want to work with and ignore those I don’t know or have deemed “unworthy” to work along side. I have learned to lead better from the landowner.

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