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LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD



 

Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. They were simple men… not highly educated theologians. It was to these common, ordinary, average folks that Jesus revealed Himself and His eternal kingdom. So, how do you teach a Galilean fisherman the depths and the heights of God’s glorious greatness? How do you convey the realities of invisible truths beyond humanity’s most-learned logic or imagination?  

 

Jesus taught parables.

 

His parables revealed heaven as differing from earth. Here, the rich and powerful seem to get richer and more powerful. Here, an entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and a little luck will garner the accolades of men. To illustrate God’s economy of great grace, Jesus told the story of laborers in a vineyard.

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1). God is compared to a landowner. In fact, He planted a vineyard, or rather, He planted a Garden, and instructed the workers “in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). The “workers for his vineyard”, are those He created “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27) and commissioned to serve Him.

 

Notice too, the workers had a choice. They could heed the Master’s invitation to enter His work force, or they could remain in the “marketplace doing nothing” (Matthew 20:3). God doesn’t throw a lariat over us and drag us into His kingdom. He invites saying, “Whosoever will … come” (Mark 8:34, KJV).

 

“Early in the morning” (Matthew 20:1) the first workers approved a contract. The workers agreed to labor in the vineyard while the Landowner agreed to pay the customary wage… “one denarius” (Matthew 20:2). Everyone was happy! Later, at “about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace” (Matthew 20:3). An invitation was extended to an additional group of employees, and the landowner’s offer was accepted, “so off they went” (Matthew 20:4) to labor for the Master.

 

The scene was repeated at “about noon and about three” (Matthew 20:5) as additional workers agreed to enter the Master’s workforce. “Then about five he went and found others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him” (Matthew 20:6-7). The five-o’clock crowd seemed desperate. They needed to work. They wanted to work! They were pleased to accept the Master’s invitation.

 

At the end of the workday, the Landowner called the laborers together and handed out the paychecks. To the five o’clock workers, He granted one denarius” (Matthew 20:9), the customary wage for a full day. Watching, those who had worked from sunup to sunset, expected to be paid more but were stunned to receive only one denarius. “Why?”

 

“Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous?” (Matthew 20:13-15).

 

What’s the point?

 

God makes entry into his kingdom possible for all types of people, without respect for abilities, efforts, or social standing. Entering the kingdom and experiencing salvation come by God’s power, through His grace, apart from anything that can be done to earn them.




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