The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Let’s say that a new business is opening up in your neighborhood and the owner is looking for people to help him get everything ready. He is offering $100.00 for a day’s work that coming Saturday. Needing some extra cash, you decide to take him up on the offer. When Saturday comes, you arrive at 9:00AM. There are three other workers there and you all begin working hard. Late that afternoon, two more people show up looking for work. Seeing that there is still much to be done, the business owner hires them and they join in on the work. When the work is finally done, the business owner calls you and the other workers over and hands each of you a one hundred dollar bill. How does that make you feel? Slighted? Treated unfairly?

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a parable to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. The parable was about a landowner who needed workers to tend to his vineyard. The landowner went out early in the morning, found a group of workers and, after agreeing to pay each of them a denarius for the day’s work, sent them into the vineyard. A few hours later he hired a few more workers and told them he would pay them whatever was right. Then, near the end of the day, seeing a few more workers still in need of work, he hired them as well.

When the work was completed and the time had come to pay the wages, the landowner paid all of the workers one denarius. Of course, the workers who had been there all day began to grumble, despite the fact that they had agreed to work for a denarius. The landowner responded by basically telling them he had the right to do whatever he chose to with his money. His desire was to be generous and so he paid even the workers who came late the full day’s wage. He reminded them that they should not be envious of the generosity he showed to the workers who had done only a few hours of work.

God is a gracious God and He desires to be generous with each of us no matter when we come into His kingdom. In telling this parable, Jesus was telling us that the reward that each of us receives is under God’s control. It is up to Him how each person is rewarded in the kingdom of heaven. At the end of the parable, Jesus said, “the last will be first, and the first last.” It is entirely up to God what reward is given to each.

I believe that Jesus also was telling us that we need not only to accept that as His sovereign will, but also to be happy with our reward and rejoice in the reward of others. The workers were all paid equally, whether they were in the vineyard all day long or just for a few hours. In the kingdom of heaven, we are all equal, whether we have had a relationship with Jesus for many years or have accepted Him late in life.

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