Spiraling Through the Parables 2: The Vineyard Workers

This is the second article of a series called Spiraling Through the Parables. In this series, we are looking at the Evolution of Consciousness as we study the Parables of our great teacher and way-shower Jesus of Nazareth.

When we consider a parable through the lens of the Evolution of Consciousness, we focus on the idea that human consciousness is not static. Our consciousness evolves as we move through our life experiences. Further, we go through recognizable and predictable stages of spiritual growth. Our understanding of God and ourselves changes in each stage.

As we look at a parable, we will draw from it meaning that is appropriate to our current stage of growth. It’s not that we move closer to the ‘right’ answer! Rather, whatever stage of growth we are in, we find the answer that speaks to us right where we are. We find the meaning that helps us deal with our present-moment challenges.

The Vineyard Workers

Today, we are exploring the Parable of The Vineyard Workers. This parable is known as a ‘Reversal’ parable. It presents a story that just seems wrong. When we hear it, something in us resists. Yet, we are told this story represents the Kingdom of Heaven. So the question we wrestle with is – How is that possible?

The following translation comes from The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? created and published by The Jesus Seminar.

Jesus used to tell this parable:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

And coming out around nine a.m., he saw others loitering in the marketplace and he said to them, “You go into the vineyard too, and I’ll pay you whatever is fair.” So they went. Around noon he went out again, and at three p.m. he repeated the process. About five p.m. he went out and found others loitering about and said to them, “Why did you stand around here idle the whole day?” They replied, “Because no one hired us.” He told them, “You go into the vineyard as well.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman: “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those hired last and ending with those hired first.” Those hired at five p.m. came up and received a silver coin each. Those hired first approached, thinking they would receive more. But they also got a silver coin apiece. They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor: “These guys hired last only worked an hour but you have made them equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.” In response he said to one of them, “Look, pal, did I wrong you? You did agree with me for a silver coin, didn’t you?  Matt 20:1-13 

What Does it Mean?

In the first article in this series, I introduced you to a model of human cognitive and spiritual development called Spiral Dynamics. That model defines several broad Levels of Consciousness. We are going to look at the parable of the Vineyard Workers from the point of view of four of these levels. At each level, we will ask the question, “How does this parable challenge me to grow? … i.e. What does it mean?”

Purposeful, Authoritarian (Blue)

What is important to us when this meme is our center of gravity?  Life is all about order. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. It is important to be in integrity. It is important to be fair. We work hard now to earn our just reward later.

At this level, the parable challenges our notion of what is ‘fair’Why did those who came late to the work still get the same reward? One meaning we might find at this level is that it is never too late to say ‘yes’ to God. Anyone who accepts God will be rewarded in heaven. We might also interpret this as a call to surrender. God is in charge. We will never understand God’s ways, and we do not need to. Our job is to surrender and accept.

Achievist, Strategic (Orange)

At this level, our most important value is self-empowerment. We use our intelligence and skill to create our good.

At this level, the parable challenges our notion of how we achieve our goodHow is it possible that those who worked one hour earned just as much as those who worked all day? That isn’t how the world works! One lesson we might take from this parable is to question what is the true source of our good – our labor or Spirit? If our good only comes from the efforts of our ego self, the parable makes no sense. If our good comes from Spirit, then the story encourages us to become co-creators with God.

We might also see that the silver coin represents all that we need in the way of supply – the divine flow. It makes no difference when we awaken and begin to work with God. The moment we open ourselves to the divine flow, and the wholeness of God is available to us immediately. Whether we have been working these principles for years, or it is our first attempt, anyone who aligns with God may draw on the infinite resources of Spirit.

Communitarian, Egalitarian (Green)

In this meme, we value equality. We passionately believe that everyone deserves an equal voice and an equal share of the pie.

This parable challenges our notion of equalityThe parable is a clear case of social injustice! On the one hand, we have the downtrodden masses working a full day for a silver coin. And on the other hand, we have an elite few working only an hour for that same silver coin. The proprietor is perpetuating systemic injustice! How can this be like the kingdom of heaven?!

The parable invites us to consider the idea of equality. Although people are to be valued equally, people are not all the same. It is calling us to honor diversity. The silver coin represents the equal value placed on each individual’s human worth. The different working hours represent our differing gifts and talents. Each of us has some things we are really good at and other things –- not so much. We have differing values and differing worldviews. When we try to make everyone the same, we inadvertently set people up for failure. So the parable challenges us to allow people their differences while still honoring their sacred worth. And we might also discover that the hardest people to honor are those who disagree with our belief that everyone is equal.

Integrative, Holistic (Yellow / Turquoise)

This is a level of consciousness that was not covered in the first article. It arose as a response to the previous meme’s tendency to try to make everybody the same. At this level, we see life as a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems and forms. Our work is to integrate diverse people into healthy, cohesive groups. We meet people where they are at in consciousness. We respect the unique gifts of each level of consciousness. We honor people by providing them with the motivation that is most deeply meaningful to them

This parable challenges our notion of what a healthy, cohesive group looks likeThe proprietor is interacting with a wide variety of people at different levels of consciousness (represented by the different times of day). He is trying to integrate these people into a team, but it isn’t working. We can tell it is not working because people are complaining. There is tension in the team. By giving everyone the same motivation (the silver coin), the proprietor is failing to recognize that people at different levels of consciousness have different values and are motivated differently. How is that like the Kingdom of Heaven?

One meaning we can take from the parable is that we have this idea that if we successfully integrate people into a healthy, cohesive group, all the tension will go away and we will live in peace and love and harmony for the rest of our days. This is simply not true. The parable challenges us to recognize that tension and chaos are a natural and necessary part of a healthy system. If tension and chaos are skillfully managed, they become the drivers for creativity and innovation. Without them, the system stagnates and dies.

Consider the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. What do you think it means?

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