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In Matthew, Jesus tells the story of a landowner needing workers for his vineyard. Before dawn, he strikes a deal with some workers, promising to pay a full day’s wage for a full day’s work. Apparently needing more help, he finds more laborers midmorning, assuring them that they’ll also be paid fairly. By lunchtime, he’s returned for more help. He goes out again midafternoon for workers and then again, with only an hour before closing time. At dusk, the last to begin working are the first to get paid — and instead of receiving the rate for one hour, they receive enough for a full day. They are ecstatic! The only people happier are those early birds — the first workers of the day — whose imaginations go wild dreaming about what they might do with the pay they will be getting. They might also be thinking that they’ll never show up for work that early again. Their dreams crash when they get paid what they had agreed to at the breaking of dawn’s first light. They shout, “It’s not fair!”
We are quick to feel aggrieved when someone seems to have an unfair advantage, but many of us have privileges that we may not even realize.
For more than a decade, Monica Jones enjoyed her Jersey City, New Jersey, apartment and a good relationship with her landlord.
However, a few years ago Jones’ housing situation began to change. When a new landlord acquired her building, Jones soon started getting notices summoning her to court. At different times, the landlord contended that she had been late with a rent payment, had failed to pay an increased rent charge and/or had failed to pay the rent at all. Other longtime residents of her 18-unit building were having similar experiences.