For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard . About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:1-16)
As many times as I’ve read the Bible this parable came across as though I’d never before read it. I thought about how often I hear people complaining about what’s “fair.”
My study Bible states this regarding this parable…”Jesus’ story makes little economic sense–which was his point exactly. He is giving a parable about grace, and you can’t calculate the grace of God like you can a day’s wages. We receive it as a gift from God, not as something we work hard to earn. The person who comes to God at the end of life–like the robber on the cross–enjoys the same ultimate benefits as someone who follows God from early childhood. Jealousy of another’s ‘unfair’ rewards can rob us of the joy of our own.”
Wow! What a thought! It really puts into perspective that fact that God doesn’t play favorites with us. He doesn’t love some of us more than others; and our rewards in the end will be the same, no matter how long we’ve followed after Him, or what we’ve done for Him. Nothing relies upon us; but everything relies on God’s generosity. (Which should also make us think about how we treat each other…If God doesn’t play favorites, should we?)
The other thing I noticed about this parable was that the landowner went out and grabbed even the leftovers; the workers that nobody else wanted! Proving, yet again, that God loves and cares for what the world considers to be “the unlovable.” And finally, this parable also shows that He never gives up on us; He offers us chance after chance to follow Him! How many times did the landowner go out and invite more men to work in his vineyard?! He did so repeatedly, but he could only do so until the day was over; however, he continued up until the very last hour. (Something else to think about.)
The NIV Student Bible, Revised. (2002). Zondervan:Grand Rapids Michigan.