Some had labored in the fields since 6:00 a.m. They bore the burden and endured the scorching heat. So, when those who entered the fields at 5:00 p.m. were paid equally, the ones who had worked all day grumbled.
The older brother followed all the rules. In fact, while the prodigal was being reinstated and the servants were preparing to celebrate, the older brother is actually in the field. He is bearing the burden and enduring the scorching heat. So, when he sees the party being thrown for someone who had walked away from his relationships and responsibilities, he is angry.
I think of Jonah sitting under the tree fuming at God saying, “This is why I didn’t want to go to Nineveh. I knew you would be gracious to them.”
And isn’t that the beautiful scandal of grace? That, though they arrive late to the vineyard, their work is still valued. That God still rejoices over a prodigal that comes stumbling back home? That sin can still be forgiven and the unlovely are still loved?
Why do we celebrate grace given to us and complain about grace given to others? It’s because we think we deserve grace which means we actually don’t understand grace at all.