Thursday, 23 April 2015

Jelly bean Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

For those people who have asked for an outline of this!

I took an assembly today on the value of 'Fairness'. Being the vicar, in my assemblies I try to always relate a Bible story that sheds light on the school's theme of the week. For 'Fairness', the story that came to mind was the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.

This was a whole primary school assembly for key stages 1&2, and would also work as a all-age talk I think.

Equipment needed: a pot of jelly beans (at least 120), and 6 bags to put them in.

Adults, in my experience, tend to really dislike this story! I wondered how children would react, and thought it would be a good way into exploring what our ideas of fairness really mean.

I began by asking them what they thought fairness meant. Answers included 'being kind', 'sharing', and 'having even teams, like in tug of war it woukd be unfair to have ten on one side and twenty on the other'.

Jesus told a story about fairness, I said.

Imagine a farmer. S/he has lots of work to do on the farm - far more than s/he can manage on her own. So s/he goes to find some people to pay to do the work with her. Explain we cant actually do digging in the hall, so i'm going to ask my workers to do star jumps instead to represent work.

A brief explanation of the way people stood in the marketplace if they were looking for work - then I took the role of the farmer and imagined the children were the workers. What a lot of people waiting to be hired! I need some strong people to help me in my farm. (Pick 2)

Now, (i said to my workers) the deal is, you work for me by doing star jumps for the rest of the assembly, and I'll pay you 20 jelly beans. Is that a fair deal? They acceot eagerly, and off they go.

After a minute or so, I stop them. Hmmm, I say. We have got half way through the day, and it doesn't look to me as if we are going to get all this work done with just two workers. I'd better go back to the marketplace and get some more. (A forest of hands flies up! I pick two more).

Ok you two. How about you work for me for what's left of the day, and I'll pay you what's fair. OK? They agree and all four start doing star jumps. After another minute I stop them.

Hmmm. We are half way through the afternoon and it doesn't look to me as if we are going to get all this work done woth just 4 workers. I'd better go back to the marketplace.

I choose one more volunteer (you could choose two but I wanted to limit the amount of time I spent  counting out beans!). Again, I offer them the deal that they work for the couple of hours left, and I will pay them whats fair....

After maybe 30 swconds more of all 5 doing star jumps, I repeat the process, emphasising that there is only an hour left of the day. My final volunteer gets offered the deal again, and they all start doing star jumps again.

After maybe 10 seconds, I stoo them all and announce it is the end of the working day and they've all done a really good job. Now its paytime. Please could they line up in order of how long they have been working for me.

I take the pot of jelly beans, musing aloud that I had said I'd give the workers 20 beans for the whole day's work, and had said I would pay the others what was fair. I open the box, and start counting jelly beans into a bag.


I hand the bag of beans to the last volunteer. Here you are! Thank you for working for me for that hour, we got the job done!

Then I turn to the next person. You worked for me for 2 hours, didn't you? Hang on, I will just count out your pay....again, count 20 jelly beans into a bag and give it to them.

And so on all down the line.

When I get to the first two, I remind them of their contract and cheerfully count 20 beans out into bags for each of them. (For the last few counts, the whole school joined in counting in twos).

Then i asked the last two (the ones who had worked all day) if they felt they had been fairly paid.

I asked the whole school to think for a moment, then raise their hands if they thought that was fair - or  not. (In this case the vote was about 40/60 fair/unfair).

I then said that Jesus had told this story when some of his disciples had asked what they would get in heaven, since they had given up everything - homes, families, work - to follow him. And Jesus told that story in reply.

I often find people think that God might prefer people who go to church a lot. Because I am a vicar, sometimes people ask me to say a prayer for them because they think my prayers might be put higher up the queue by God! But the great news for those of us who feel other people are probably a lot better at religion than us, is that in this story Jesus tells us that God doesn't have any favourites in heaven. There aren't any special rewards for people who have been more religious, because God loves all of us equally, however much we do for him.

Prayer: thanking God for the difficult bits of the Bible, that make us think, and for giving us minds to think with.
Thanking God for Jesus showing us how much God loves us, and that he has no favourites.
Praying for all those who are not so fortunate as us around the world, and for all those who try to make the world a fairer place for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Adults do like this story intensely. I do think it works well with primary age but it starts getting sticky with teenagers who seem to have developed levels of cynicism that belie their age! My 17/18 year olds have asked me how this applies to zero-hours contracts. Possibly the most difficult question I've had lately in contemporising the gospel. God may have no favourites but the world has. Jelly beans tomorrow for the instant gratification generation?