Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Sunday thought


Today's main reading was the parable from Matthew 20, 1-16 where the owner of a vineyard hires day-labors at various times of the day and yet pays them all the same at the end of the work day.

The traditional "sermon" that goes with this story is that souls saved on their deathbed are welcomed into heaven as joyfully as those who were saved at a very young age.

The sermonist will often include an editorial aside something like "And we know this is the message because the behaviors of the vineyard owner make no economic sense."

Maybe I am just contrary
I think there was a sub-plot to the parable that was readily apparent to Jesus's audience, a message that became invisible to us as we drifted away from our agrarian roots.

The parable DOES make economic sense if the grapes are very, very ripe and a storm is coming.  In fact, I think Jesus was "blogging", that is, taking a recent event that was very much on people's minds and using the event as a springboard for a moral message.  My gut feel is that a local vineyard lost much of its harvest because the landlord failed to be flexible when weather demanded urgency.

Several bad things can happen under those circumstances.
The grapes can be damaged by hail.  Image from HERE
The grapes can absorb water due to osmosis and split and rot.  Image from HERE
Botrytis bunch rot.  Image from HERE
Finally, rain can cause the individual grapes to push off the cluster.  They absorb the rain which causes them to swell.  If the cluster is tightly packed then they berries push each other off their individual stems.  This flaw is called "shelling".  Imagine, you have a vineyard full of perfectly ripe fruit, perhaps the best harvest in five years and you can lose half of it to a prolonged rain simply because the berries pick themselves.

The same phenomena but a different crop
First class "horse" hay goes for about $5 a small, square bale around here.  Eight hours at the local minimum wage of $8.90 an hour is $71.20.
Image from HERE

Suppose the hay is baled and the farmer can see that a long, drenching rain is coming and he has far more baled hay in the field than he has ability to put in the barn.  Soaked bales of "horse" hay have no value.

In that case, it is in the economic best interest of the farmer to hire somebody at a full day's wage for one hour's work if he believes they can increase the harvest by fifteen or more bales in that hour.

Summary
Subplot one: The harvest is rich and the laborers are few.  We should be imbued with a sense of urgency.
Subplot two: A storm is coming.  Not in the Apocalyptic sense but in the sense that life is fraught with tumult and tempest.
Bonus subplot: "Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?"  Capitalists were fending off the creeping encroachment of property rights 2000 years ago.

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