During his radio broadcast yesterday, right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton said that we here at Right Wing Watch mock him for saying that Jesus opposes the minimum wage, but that is only because “it is highly unlikely that they even know what is in the Bible.”
Of course, it is because we have read the Bible and know what it says that we mock Barton’s absurd misrepresentations. And, amazingly, Barton provided a perfect demonstration of just how he misrepresents the Bible yesterday while trying to prove that we are the ones who don’t understand what it says.
Barton did so when he again cited the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard from Matthew 20 to make the case that Jesus opposes the minimum wage:
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 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?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “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.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘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.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The proper context for understanding this parable is that, in Matthew 19, the disciples asked Jesus who can get into heaven and Jesus responded that everyone who believes in Him will be saved, but cautioned that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
Jesus then illustrated this point with the parable of the vineyard in order to explain that no matter how late in one’s life one comes to Christ, the heavenly reward is the same; those who embrace Christ on their deathbed will receive the same eternal reward as those who are devoted Christians all of their lives because of God’s generous love. Jesus was telling his disciples that those who dedicate their lives to Christ early on cannot complain when those who come to Jesus later also receive the same heavenly reward.
But that is not how Barton interprets this parable, as he instead skews it to claim that it was Jesus who hired the workers and then used the situation to teach them about the evils of the minimum wage and government regulation.
“In Matthew 20:15, Jesus says, ‘Is not my money to do with as I please?'” Barton said. “‘I’m the employer. Don’t I get to decide what I’m going to pay everyone in this thing?’ No, no, no, the government has a minimum wage. No it didn’t. Jesus says, ‘My money is mine to do with as I please and, by the way, you made a contract with them.’ And then he tells the guy, ‘If you didn’t like the contract, you can go down the road to another vineyard and see if they’ll pay you two silver coins for what you did, but you agreed to work for me for that.'”
“So what you have here,” Barton continued, “is Jesus says, ‘The government doesn’t tell me how much to spend, I get to choose my own wages and, two, if you choose to work for me for that, you have an agreement, we have a contract; and three is if you’ve got greater skill, you can sell it to somebody else for a higher price, you can go down the road.’ That’s all free market stuff, there’s no government regulation of wages; and by the way, Right Wing Watch, that is the minimum wage. Government doesn’t tell you want to pay an employee, you make a contract with that individual for whatever they agree on and what you agree on, and if the don’t like that, they can use the free market to go somewhere else and try to get more. All of that is in Matthew 20.”
Obviously, all of that is not in Matthew 20. In fact, none of that is in Matthew 20, because it was not Jesus who hired and paid the laborers, it was a landowner in the parable He was telling to illustrate His point about heaven. On top of that, nowhere in the parable does it say that if the workers don’t like the payment they received, they can take their services elsewhere—in fact, that wouldn’t even make sense considering that it was a lesson about eternal salvation and Jesus teaches that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus certainly wasn’t saying that if you don’t like God’s way of doing things you can go find some other god to worship!
So, David Barton, we do know what is in the Bible and that is how we know that you’re interpretation of it is so often laughably wrong.