The concern for social justice in employment and remuneration of workers is crucial in Africa because the continent has a lot of natural resources and avenues for employment, but the rate of youth unemployment and low remuneration for those who are privileged to find a job has made the question of social justice to become imperative. Agrarian communities in the Mediterranean world of the New Testament were also confronted by the question of social justice as portrayed in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-15).
The thesis indicates that many scholars who have dealt with the contemporary and disturbing issue of social justice, using the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-15), are Westerners and American scholars and therefore have dealt with questions and spiritual problems that relates to West and America. In response to these readings of the parable, this study is a quest for a biblical theology of social justice in employment and remuneration for Africa and by an African in the light of Matthew 20:1-15 from a Cameroonian perspective using an African biblical interpretation.
The history of interpretation of the parable revealed that many interpreters who have worked on the parable have considered the action of a vineyard owner who paid all his workers the same amount despite the fact that they were employed at different hours of the day as an act of extreme generosity of a very unusual employer. This study adds a further dimension to the aspect of generosity in that the owner took cognisance of the condition of the unemployed and paid them according to need and not merit which is a higher dimension of social justice. Like in the society Jesus describes, Africans live in communities of unfair distribution of resources and this creates an imbalanced society between the privileged and the less-privileged. Therefore, social justice is highly perverted in Africa.
From an empirical point of view, the policy of employment of workers and payment in the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) is well constituted. However, some pitfalls are observed at the level of some employments and appointments done from perspectives of regional balancing rather than merit. This is a replica of what the Cameroon government is doing to silence opposition to the central administration. As an exegetical work, brief explorations are made of other current exegetical methods before deciding on the social scientific and African biblical interpretation methods which are the main methods that are used to read Matthew 20:1-15. The reading of the parable is examined from Jesus’ perspective, and not from Matthew the narrator where possible editing might have been effected. While the popular reading of this parable has in many cases been allegorical, the work deals with the parable as an earthly story with an earthly meaning to show that parables are not necessarily fictive stories, but realistic ones.
One of the conclusions of the study is that a large percentage of the twenty-first century African societies are agrarian. Despite the fact that most of the economic potentials of Africa come from agriculture, the continent is still suffering from food shortages because many African leaders have not been fair to their citizens. Endemic corrupt regimes have taken away the treasure of Africa, and allowed their people to suffer. African elites act as bosses instead of being servants to the people. The study of the parable authenticates that the Patron vineyard owner does the hiring of workers himself and he pays the late workers out of need and the early workers out of a fair wage.
An African biblical interpretation of the parable concludes that if this parable was told in an African setting, the vineyard owner would have been someone like an African chief (Fon), a title holder, an African elder or an elite of good standing who shows solidarity with various members of his community. The behaviour of various characters would have coincided with many values of the African context.