Matthew 20: 1-16
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. 3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. 6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ 7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ 8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. 10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, 12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ 16 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”
In Matthew 20 we find the parable of the vineyard workers which confronts and challenges our faulty view of fairness. One of the most overlooked aspects to this story is the parable that preceded it in Matthew 19 and the resulting question asked by Peter in Matthew 19:27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Peter’s statement comes as a result of Jesus answer to the rich young ruler in which Jesus told him: “go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Basically Peter was saying you told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he had and follow you and we have done that. We left everything, we have sacrificed our families and our homes for your sake, so what will we get, how will we gain, what will be our profit? Jesus answers this question by telling them in verse 28 “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus then goes on to tell them the parable of the vineyard workers. Jesus was teaching His disciples that Kingdom pay is given not earned, which makes it Grace. Jesus reminds us that whatever we forsake for the kingdom of God is not a sacrifice but an investment. The parable begins with the:
- Generosity of God
The owner of the vineyard is God the Father who was compelled by grace, willing to go to the marketplace not just once but 5 times. The Jewish workday began at 6:00 AM when the landowner would have hired the first workers, he then went back to hire at 9am, noon, 3pm and even as late as 5pm when most plantations would have been winding down for the day. The last laborers who were waiting for work at this time of the day would have lost hope. But on this particular day everything was different, because of grace, he was hiring not because of His need but because of theirs. It is clear that his interest was not only in the vineyard but in people. One of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh, which means “The LORD Will Provide” it is the name memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac, Genesis 22:14. Philippians 4:19: says: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 4:16 tells us to: “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And Matthew 6:8 reminds us that: “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” We have a gracious and giving God, One who not only knows our needs, but desires to meet them with His goodness and grace. Scripture says that he doesn’t just want to give us a few blessings but to blow the doors off, Malachi 3:10 “Bring your whole tithe to the store house and I will open the windows of heaven and pour you out blessings you won’t have room to receive.” David talked about how generous a giver God was in Psalm 23:5 when he said, “He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over.” Grace is what separates Christianity from all other religions, for grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross, he is the One who said “It is Finished” While Christianity is defined by what is done, all the other religions are consumed with what we have to do. You see there is nothing that we can add, He paid it all and that’s why He alone gets the glory. God’s grace is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and rarely appreciate it. When it comes to grace we often don’t get it, we may use the word repeatedly but do we really understand it. Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them, because we focus on the cost while Christ focused on the cross. For the workers in the fields, the typical payment back then would have been the same as now, first come first served. Not surprisingly, Jesus turns it all upside down so that the last are first served. You see this wasn’t about business it was about blessing. As Jesus brings this parable to its conclusion he reminds us that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” In the kingdom of God, our perceived position is of no importance because God shows no partiality. At the end when we stand before our Savior there will be no distinctions between preachers and prostitutes. No one is worthier than another to receive salvation, we are all unworthy, not worthless, but unworthy. In God’s economy things are often just the opposite of what we expect. The problem with grace is that it has an edge to it. It’s challenging, even disturbing, because grace is not our go to. We like the idea of grace but grace is not an abstract idea it’s a concrete reality. Grace is not something just to look at but something to live out, yet if you don’t really get grace you will never give it. Let me ask you how grounded in grace are you? Our confidence and joy in this life is not based on what we have or what we do but rather in who we have. Are you thankful for grace or are you taking it for granted? When was the last time you thanked God for His generosity of grace?