This is a monologue used to illustrate the parable of the vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16).
I just put on a ball cap and flannel shirt over my clothes.
Hi. My name is Samuel. I am 15 years old. I live with my mom and my five brothers and sisters, ages 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12. Everyone used to say we were like stair steps. My dad’s not around anymore, so I’ve really had to step up in the last couple of years. I’m the man of the house. My mom does her best, doing odd jobs as a seamstress, but the work isn’t steady, and even when it is, it’s just not enough to meet the needs of our family. So I quit school so I can go to work and help out. I didn’t learn a trade from my dad like a lot of boys do, so I thought I’d hire myself out as a day laborer. I figure everybody needs help with construction work, right? Or on a farm?
Turns out it’s not as easy to get hired as I thought.
I do the same thing every day. I get up while it’s still dark. I get dressed. I whisper goodbye to my mother. I walk about three miles to the market place, and I wait there. I’m not the only one. Dozens of others wait with me, all hoping to get a job that day. The first day I left home to find work, I promised my brothers and sisters that they could count on me, that I’d be bringing home food and maybe even a few treats for them. When I got home that first day, they ran to the door, eyes shining bright, so excited to see what their big brother had brought home. It broke my heart to tell them I had nothing to give them, that no one had hired me. It was the same disappointment the next day, and the next. Yesterday when I came home, they didn’t even run to the door. It’s like they’ve given up on me. I’ve given up on me. Yet still… I wait here, like today will be any different.
The first round of bosses come really early in the morning. I never have much hope that I’ll be chosen then. I mean, they get the pick of the litter, so of course they’re going to pick the strongest guys, and the ones with the most experience. I still get in line with the rest of them, but not surprisingly, they don’t pick me. I’m a little more hopeful a couple of hours later when the next round come. The pool is smaller, so I have a better chance of standing out. I get up to the front of the line. I puff my chest out and flex my muscles, hoping that I won’t look so small compared to these grown men around me. I see one of the bosses eyeing me. My heart starts to race. Is he going to pick me? But then I see him trying to cover a laugh. I’m just a joke to him.
Two more rounds of bosses come by, and I start to fear that this day will be just like the others. Lunch time passes. If the hot sun didn’t give it away, my grumbling belly would have. I could go on home, but I think there may be some bosses who need relief workers at this point of the day. Finally someone comes by. There are only three guys left at this point. I’m sure I’ll be chosen. But he takes the other two and barely glances in my direction.
And then I’m left there all alone. At some point in the late afternoon, I see a lady leave the marketplace, and I catch her eye. She’s looking through her basket of produce. I don’t know for sure if it’s out of pity, but she pulls out a near rotten tomato from the basket and discards it, tossing it so that it lands right near my feet. I pick it up and almost devour it, when I suddenly think of my little siblings. I know they’re starving at home. I’ve done nothing to help. I’ve contributed nothing. How dare I think of eating? Instead, I store the tomato away in my pouch. Between the five of them, it won’t be more than a bite, but at least it’s something.
Evening is coming. I don’t dare go home. I can’t stand the thought of the disappointment on their faces. I sit on the curb and I bury my dirty face in my hands. In seconds, I’m crying buckets. One tear for every way I’ve failed in this life.
Then… I hear a voice.
“Boy, why are you sitting there doing nothing while everyone else is out working?”
“Doing nothing? I’ve been here all day, waiting for someone to hire me. No one has. No one wants me!”
Then he says, “I’ll hire you. Come and work in my vineyard.”
“Now?” I ask. “The day is done.”
He shakes his head. “The sun won’t set for another hour at least. Come and work.”
And so I go to the man’s vineyard. There are many other workers already toiling in the fields. For one hour, I give it everything I’ve got. I do my very best. And then the sun sets, and the day really is done.
The boss tells us to line up for our pay. I go to the end of the line. I’m not sure how much I’ll get paid for the little bit of work I was able to do, but I’m trying to figure it up in my head, and I think I’ll have enough for a loaf of bread. A slice of bread and a bite of tomato is sounding good right about now! And it’s more than my family has had in days.
I look down the line, and I see men who have been working all day. It’s been a hot one. They are sweaty and tired. I feel bad for them, but I’m also jealous. I’ll bet they’ve had a good day, enjoyed some companionship, and made a lot of money! I expect the boss to start with them since they’ve been here all day, but he surprises me and comes to me to pay first. He hands me money and I look down at it. It’s a whole day’s wages.
“Sir,” I say, “I’m the one you hired at the end of the day. I only worked a little while. This is too much. I didn’t earn this. You’ve made a mistake.”
And he looks at me with the kindest eyes and says, “I don’t make mistakes.”
I can’t believe it. All of this is mine? I can hear the other workers start to grumble about it not being fair, and I know they’re right, but I don’t have time to listen. I pull the rotted tomato out of my pouch and toss it to the ground and tuck the money in instead, and I run. Because if I run as fast as I can, I can make it back to the marketplace before they shut the doors for the day. And if I make it, tonight, in my house, there’s going to be a feast.