Matthew 20:1-7 – “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ ESV
This is another popular parable. If you recall, in the 19th chapter of Matthew, Peter has just been told that it will be difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. Peter then replies, that they have left all to follow Jesus and wants to know, “Therefore, what shall we have?” In the Message Bible his question is rendered, “What do we get out of it?”
The Lord tells the disciples of the rewards that they will receive: they will rule with Him, everything given up will be restored 100 fold, and of course, eternal life. Then He shares that the last will be first, and the first will be last. But He doesn’t stop there. He then shares with them what the kingdom will be like, using the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
The master goes out to find workers for his vineyard. He hires workers at 6 am, goes again and hires more at 9 am, then noon, and finally at the 11th hour, which is 5 pm. The work day ends at 6 pm. He agrees to pay the first workers a denarius for a full day’s work. Then, subsequently, he offers the same pay to the others, even those who work for only an hour.
When the day ends, the master has the foreman call over the workers, and since they start with the last one hired and gives him a denarius, those who worked all day, thought they would received more. When they also receive a denarius, they become angry with the owner. He replies that he can do what he wants with that which is his; and that they received the payment that was agreed upon. Basically, they were asking, “How is this even fair? We worked all day long in your vineyard, even at its hottest point; and you make them equal to us. That just isn’t fair!” Well, whether it was fair or not, it was right; because it was his money, and therefore his decision.
I have heard the phrase, “That isn’t fair,” more times than I can remember. As a matter of fact, I wish I could’ve placed a jar in my classroom to collect a dollar every time it was said! I got to the place where I stopped defending if something was fair or not, and started saying, “It may not seem fair to you, but it’s the right thing to do!” Then I’d keep it moving!
The situation in the vineyard is exactly like the kingdom, some people will get saved as kids, others as teens, and still others as young adults, and they will serve God faithfully all of their lives. They’ll start churches, go on mission fields, feed the poor, teach Sunday School, and a host of other things before they die. Then there will be those who get saved and not serve Him for any real length of time, or not at all. Well, when they get to heaven, all of them will receive the gift of eternal life. There are no degrees of eternal life. It’s the same for us all! Your works may determine your rewards in heaven, but we all get the same pay, eternal life!
Then there is the attitudes of the first workers, like some in the kingdom. Instead of them realizing the good heart of the one who hired them, they were complaining because they felt cheated. Most of us probably feel that it really wasn’t fair! None of us would “really” be happy to find out that we worked all day long and got the same pay that someone, who only worked an hour, received. Let’s keep it real! I can understand where they were at. However, they were more interested in how it wasn’t fair to them, and they couldn’t see the blessing that the master was to the last workers. In a very real sense, those families could have gone hungry that night had the master not shown compassion on them. If the first workers would’ve have been the last hired, it would have been the favor of God, and we all know that favor ain’t fair. But because they watched it happen to the other workers, the thought the master had treated them unfairly!
Can you relate? How many times have you complained to God because of something He did for someone else? Especially a new believer? Your marriage is going through and you’ve been praying for years. Someone gets saved, their marriage is a disaster, but within a few months, their marriage is restored. How is that even fair? Well, since I don’t know all of the details, I just have to say, God knows what He is doing. His compassion knows no limit! Maybe less complaining will get you the same results.
Another point is the character of the master. He had a heart of compassion for those workers who wanted to work but couldn’t find a means to provide for their families. They had been overlooked, maybe rejected, but the master of the vineyard hired them. Just like in the kingdom. All of us are important to God. It doesn’t matter when we cry out to and make ourselves available to Him, He accepts us! So how is that even fair? It is if you are the recipient! God says your heart is evil if you feel this way about how He runs the kingdom. I don’t know about you, but I want my heart to be right before the Master.
Lastly, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The kingdom message was given first to the Jews and lastly to the Gentiles. But today, the Gentiles carry the message of the kingdom and the Jews are catching on. In which case, they are last! How’s that even fair? They did reject Him as a nation, and the Gentiles accepted Him. Now they have to get in line to receive their Messiah! There may be more to that, but that’s all I have for now. Wonderful Jesus!