The parable of the workers in the vineyard is rather startling.
People who work an hour in the late afternoon are paid the same as
those who work all day long. Obviously God doesn’t think like
We think of justice in terms of what is fair, of what people deserve. So we would say that the people who worked longer deserved more. But God doesn’t see it that way. God thinks of justice in terms of people’s dignity, their right to a decent life.
The people who came late had the same right to a decent life as those who had worked all day, so they are all treated equally. Nothing is taken from anyone, but all are treated in accord with their dignity, their right to a decent life. Such is God’s justice.
Biblical justice is more comprehensive than subsequent philosophical definitions. It is not concerned with a strict definition of rights and duties, but with the rightness of the human condition before God and within society. Nor is justice opposed to love; rather, it is both a manifestation of love and a condition for love to grow.
U.S. Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 1986:39