Social Justice Warriors in the Bible

If Jesus was the CEO of a company, would He be a fair businessman?

Arend Nijdam     1 October 2021
  • social justice
  • bible
  • parable
  • entitlement


  1. Jesus' parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
  2. What do we get?
  3. The Workers in the Vineyard, and equality
  4. Fair(er) means to determine pay
  5. Stop crying, start negotiating

Jesus' parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16 - For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

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

He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 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?"

“Because no one has hired us," they answered.

He said to them: "You also go and work in my vineyard."

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."

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.

"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."

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

 So the last will be first, and the first will be last. 

What do we get?

Right before this parable Peter asks Jesus a question;

Matthew 19:27-30 - Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

So Peter asks what his Heavenly reward will be for following Jesus. Jesus answers that Peter will recieve "a hundred times as much", what ever that may be, in correlation to the sacrifices he made in order to follow Jesus – and in addition: eternal life. Nice, sounds good!

Notice that I'm not saying "sounds fair!", because you recieving anything from God has nothing to do with fairness ever. You giving up your house, family, spouse, work, or whatever, as a sacrifice for God doesn't make you entitled to anything. Everything you "have" is always more in Gods ownership than it is in yours. A sacrifice to God is never an exchange of valuables.

Recieving compensation for our sacrifices is not self-evident, we are not owed anything. Jesus didn't have to promise us rewards, but he did so anyway, its an example of His generosity. Note that eternal life is mentioned separate and that it's not a part of these rewards, eternal life is not to be earned, only to be freely given. 

The Workers in the Vineyard, and equality

...These guys only worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have worked all day...

So they grumble because the employer treated them equally... it's never okay is it? The feelings of unfairness are unbearable! Surely they should introduce something obvious, like an hourly pay rate!

Fair(er) means to determine pay

The landowner was fully fair, here is why; because they all had their own deal with the landowner.

Every worker had their own private conversation with the landowner and they all agreed to their own contract. The first men agreed to a deal with a one denarius payment. The others agreed to "what is right". Agreeing to such a fague and undefined term is actually very risky, what does right even mean? None of the men were forced into anything.

Ironically enough the first workers grumbled because they were treated equally, they expected to recieve more than they agreed to. They got triggered when they started comparing themselves to others.

A fairer means to determine pay wasn't the issue. The landowner acknowledged that, out of generosity he paid the other men more. The workers grumbled about the landowner being generous, they preffered he wasn't. Would they rather see that the other men couldn't feed their families that day? Why couldn't they be happy for the other men? 

Stop crying, start negotiating

The grumblers in the parable are the first Social Justice Warriors in classic literature, and what a classic timeless example it is. People cry for equality and equal treatment, but so many times they are moved by emotions they have over symptoms, that were caused by an unrecognized root problem.

When most people say they want fair pay, they really mean more pay. The pay you get is discussed and agreed upon by you and your employer. If you are unhappy about your pay, the free market of the western world allows you to talk to your employer and renegotiate. Prepair your case, and explain why your contribution to the company is now worth more than it was before.

If you don't like the answer, you can freely look at other employment options, perhaps you could start your own company? A vinyard maybe?