Though there are countless great and horrible stories in the Bible, there is one tale in Matthew I find justifying inequity and giving undue credit to the boss (Jesus), at the expense of fairness. This parable essentially gives employers carte blanche to abuse.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
“And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
“And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
“And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
“Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
“And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
“They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
“And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
“But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
“And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
“Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
“But he answered one of them, and said, 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.
“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:1-15).
Because I am good? It’s interesting how Mormonism is quick to dismiss deathbed repentance as a viable option for salvation but are happy to use the temporal example in this chapter to justify being a tyrant. I think of scenes in the parking lot of Home Depot, where desperate workers are treated like slaves without many benefits to them, except the pay they receive that day. Granted, they have agreed to the sum, but that shouldn’t give their manager the right to adjust the scale in an abusive way.
Fortunately, the tides are turning against greedy kingpins, and the pandemic is forcing employers to pay their people better, because there is an odd combination of low unemployment (3.9%, as of 6 January 2022), and not enough workers to fill critical positions.
As a small business owner, I am keenly aware of capitalism and the need to keep wages lower to help the business survive. But if it means that I need to take a salary-cut to pay my employees better, then I’m happy to do it, since without them I’d have nothing. Unfortunately, greedy employers turn to increasing their prices (in an already struggling battle of the wallet for the common man) to avoid being pinched personally.
Perhaps you should re-read those verses, viewed from this perspective.
America is rife with employee abuses, and Jesus appears to want to help bosses justify it. The plea of the hardest workers fell on deaf ears in verse 12, and the ugly game of Christian blame shifting came into play three verses later when Jesus accuses them of being evil, when he is the one dealing the corrupt hand.
One thing is certain, this “goodman of the house” will undoubtedly have a high rate of employee turnover for his smugness and unrighteous dominion. Hard to keep the pews filled when people sniff a rat.