God’s economy of GRACE is not the same as the natural order people expect.
1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. 4 And he said to them, “You go into the vineyard too and I will give you whatever is right.” 5 So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and he said to them, “Why are you standing here all day without work?” 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You go and work in the vineyard too.”
8 When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.” 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. 10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner,12 saying, “These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.
13 And the landowner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. 15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The landowner clearly represents the Lord, and the vineyard represents his kingdom.
….The important point: the apparent inequity in the pay scale.
...working in the vineyard is a fairly solid image of serving in the Lord’s kingdom. The emphasis on wages in the outworking of the event means that this story is primarily about God’s gifts, or rewards, for faithful service. But the length of service and the amount of work does not determine what the reward is.
At the end of the day …... to everyone’s surprise, he first paid the workers who came last, and who probably worked an hour or two. They received the pay for a full day’s work. This led the other workers to think that they would get more, because they had been there all day. But they were wrong --- they all received the same thing, a full day’s wages. This landowner was certainly unconventional.
Quite understandably, the workers who had been there all day complained to the landowner. They thought it was unfair that the men who worked only a little should get as much as they. Most workers would think the same thing.
In response to the complaint the landowner simply had to remind the workers of a few important points.
---> He paid the early workers exactly what He promised, what they agreed to. So they had no reason to complain.
---> He was the landowner and was free to offer the other workers what He thought was fair if they would come and work as well.
---> He told the workers to take their wage and go. There was no chance of their changing His mind; and nothing good would come out of their wanting more than the later workers, for there was no law that said he had to pay everyone proportionately.
---> The final point of the story says that the last will be first and the first will be last, a…. this statement says that the Lord cannot be held to social convention or custom in the way that He rewards people; but it certainly also says that His pact with each group is fair--and generous since without it they would have nothing. In other words, it is by GRACE that He rewards the workers, just as it was by GRACE He offered them the place.
Points to Consider
1. The Lord is sovereign over His kingdom.
---> He is the landowner, He can pay people whatever He wants to pay them, He owes no man an explanation of His dealings with the workers in the vineyard.
In God’s kingdom, then, He is absolutely sovereign and He can deal with all people in whatever way He chooses. He is free to give some people more than others in relationship to their years of service or contribution. He alone makes the decisions of what to give people for service, how to use them (all day or not), and how to reward their faithfulness. And no one can challenge the decision of the sovereign Lord.
2. Everyone who serves the Lord will be treated fairly.
3. How the Lord treats all of His servants is by GRACE. Until the workers were approached by the landowner, they had no work. If He had not found them and arranged for them to enter his vineyard, they would have remained with nothing. No one can complain that such a gracious provision is unfair--unless they think that everything must be based in a legal arrangement. Everyone should be thankful that God opened up the opportunity for service.
The story starts out with a conventional plot, hiring day workers…...it turns at the end to what is totally unconventional, so that the people who worked the least got equal pay. How is it possible that the last shall be first? Not by agreement and not by contract ---- but by GRACE and GRACE alone.
….with God all things are possible, and especially this work of grace that the last is first. If God extends grace to people at the eleventh hour, and they respond, trusting in His goodness, they will also receive what He promised others. If God calls people into service in His vineyard, and they serve Him faithfully, both the calling and the reward is by GRACE, especially if their work was not a full day.
4. The workers should be pleased with what He gives them, and not concerned with what He gives other people. If the workers were genuinely pleased to receive the work and the day’s wages, they would have focused on that, and not on another worker’s packet. It is when people start comparing what God has given to other believers that they begin to judge God’s fairness. But in the final analysis it is not by length of service, or amount of work, that GRACE operates--it is based on what He chooses to give.
The WARNING to each of us is “not to be proud of what we have done and expect more than those whom we think have done less.” After all, if we have done more, or done it longer, it is only because by His GRACE He made the opportunity available earlier for us. The word here drives us back to the instruction that whether He gives us a whole day, or just an hour, we must serve Him faithfully and trust that we will enter into the reward that He has in store for those who are faithful. That God chose any one of us for His vineyard is amazing. We should rejoice in that, and rejoice in the fact that He is still inviting otherwise “unemployed” folks to join.
In the final analysis this story is basically about people responding to the opportunity to work in His vineyard when the invitation is made to them. For some the arrangements are clear, for others they are not, but in both cases the Lord deals justly and fairly with His people. It is not a parable about salvation per se, but about working in His vineyard, and the rewards that will be given for faithfulness. The bottom line is that people should be ready to respond to the opportunity for service, and rejoice in what He gives us as a reward for our service.
He alone knows the value of each person’s service for His kingdom…….we can all rest assured that when the opportunity and the rewards come from the gracious Lord, they will be just and generous.
~ author unknown