The Generous Land Owner: Matthew 20:1-16
We now come to a parable about the kingdom of heaven that rubs some people wrong. It is about the owner of a vineyard who went out early in the morning to hire workers. He found some right away and agreed with them for a denarius for the day.
Then he returned several times throughout the day to hire more workers. He went the third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour and likewise the eleventh hour. He marveled that some had stood all day looking for work with no one to hire them. That took faith and perseverance. He sent them also into his fields.
It might be noteworthy, that this was harvest time. They were sent out to work in the harvest field because the grapes were ripening fast. Time was of the essence and he didn’t want anything to go to waste. The workforce needed to be expanded.
At the end of the day, he lined up the workers to pay them for their labor. He told his foreman to pay those who labored last their wages first. He gave each one the same pay of one denarius. Those hired early in the morning began to grumble thinking they deserved more money because they endured the heat of the whole day.
But the land owner replied that he paid them exactly what they agreed upon. He also said it was his prerogative to issue the pay scale as he pleased.
Admittedly, this parable rubs many people wrong. The owner of the vineyard seemed unfair and unjust. Certainly those hired first earned more! So what can we learn from this story?
First, when it comes to getting into heaven, salvation is the same for all people. It is a free gift based on faith and not works.
Second, many kingdom benefits are based on needs and not merely effort. This includes things like forgiveness, freedom from sin and access to worship. The pay was not an entitlement. All of the workers spent the same time either working or seeking work, but the needs back home were the same for all workers.
Third, those hired earlier did have more blessings than those hired later. They received more education, more provision of food and drink throughout the day and much more time to get to know the land owner. It is impossible to put a price tag on these three benefits. Some people pay dearly for these three things, the early workers got them thrown into the deal.
Think about it, who gained the greatest “know how” to go out and start their own vineyard? Those hired last or those hired first? Education and contacts are priceless… if you maintain the right attitude! Experience and knowledge are invaluable.
Forth, this was merely the first day of the harvest. The next day they all had a resume to build on. A good testimony, leadership and faithfulness are built over time! How long do you suppose the foreman had worked for the land owner? How does he fit into the story?
Fifth, every Christian has the same blessings and benefits “in Christ!” We all have equal access to the Holy Spirit and therefore equal potential for grace, growth, fulness and fruitfulness. Christianity is an equal opportunity relationship with God! Make the most of it!
Finally, it is impossible to put a price tag on years of knowing Jesus Christ and walking with God! Yes, in some ways the first are last and the last are first. We are all part of the family of God. But Psalm 4:3 says, “But know that the Lord has set aside the godly man for Himself, the Lord hears when I call to Him.”
I come back to the foreman in the story. He was set aside for a very unique relationship with his Master and there was no mention of pay scale. Like the Apostle Paul, he found a surpassing value in knowing his Master. (Philippians 3:7-11) As the years of knowing Jesus mount, never underestimate the potential depth of your calling. You have so much more to build on!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: