“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1)
The parables are a great guide for those who are diligently seeking God. As we study our Bibles we begin to appreciate who God is and why He is the way He is. We can learn much about the Creator of the universe if the desire is there. One thing for sure is we will soon learn that God’s ways have a purpose entirely void of man’s perceptions of how things should operate.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
In His parable of the vineyard owner, Jesus shows mankind a different type of employer. A good man owns a vineyard and he needs laborers. This good man heads to the marketplace early in the morning to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. When he sees men standing around he approaches them and contracts with them to work in his vineyard. The vineyard owner offers the first men a day’s wage and they accept his fair offer and head off to work in the man’s vineyard.
After contacting and sending out men throughout the day to work in his vineyard, at about the eleventh hour (5:00 pm) the good man heads back to the marketplace where he encounters a few more men standing around and he inquires of them why they are just standing around.
“And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” (Matthew 20:7-8)
So the vineyard owner offers to pay these last workers fairly and they head off to join their fellow laborers who are already working.
Now the work day has ended and the vineyard owner tells his steward to settle up with all the workers. In the minds of most humans a great injustice is about to occur here. This perceived injustice would depend on which group of laborers you belonged to; the workers which spent just one hour at labor in the vineyard couldn’t possibly see any injustice as they received their day’s wage. You see, there was no difference in pay for any vineyard worker that particular day.
That full day’s pay must have made the one hour group extremely content. But the men who labored all day in the hot sun had a little different opinion on the matter “…they murmured against the good man of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.” Matthew 20:11b-12.
But the vineyard owner had this to say in response to their murmurings “…Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:13b-15)
Was there any injustice done as the above workers perceived? Were any of them taken advantage of? No, they all agreed on the wage for the day, which at that time in history was a fair day’s wage. The problem arises when we consider only the human side of this parable. We see a great injustice done to the laborers who spent the entire day in the vineyard.
We must conclude that these men had every right to murmur against the vineyard owner. In the minds of most humans a travesty of justice had occurred. In our economy today the laborers who worked longer hours should have been paid according to the hours they worked, not what some vineyard owner felt was fair and just for all. Right? Maybe.
But remember, in the first verse of this chapter of Matthew Jesus brought our attention to the fact that He was likening the good man/vineyard owner to the Kingdom of Heaven, not to any humanistic pursuit for earthly gain.
In this parable the vineyard owner represents God, and the day’s wages represents God’s distribution of heavenly rewards. God rewards those He sees fit to reward and He does so as He desires. The rewards are according to God’s good pleasure, not man’s good works or hard labor.
Many believe that what they’ve done in their life will assure them many rewards in heaven. But that isn’t how God works. The men who worked one hour of the day received the very same reward as the men who worked all day because it pleased the good man of the vineyard (God) to reward them in this manner. In God’s economy there was no injustice, only God’s grace and mercy.
Looking at God’s rewards as He distributes them can be confusing to many since the mindset of most of earth’s population has a humanistic me, me, me mindset, which of course is not at all godly. As believers in Christ we should always be others-centered, never self-centered. Self-centered individuals will forever misunderstand how God decides to reward those He rewards and will never see God’s blessings as a part of His Kingdom.
His rewards have everything to do with His will, not ours. Also, His rewards and blessings have nothing to do with whether or not we are worthy. After all, none of us are worthy to receive even one blessing. “…for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45b.
We may witness the lost of this world receiving what most of us would consider great rewards/blessings. But the blessings and rewards we might receive during this life on earth are insignificant in view of what awaits those of us who love and trust God.
Think about this for a moment. What was Jesus’ purpose behind this parable? Was it to expose a world of jealousness and hatred to our fellow man? Not at all. Jesus’ motivation begins in chapter 19 of Matthew when His disciples disputed among themselves about who would be first in the kingdom of heaven.
That chapter and this parable are tied together. If you want to be first you’ll be last. If you are last you’ll be first. And that’s just part of the parable and how God’s rewards flow, there is much more to discover about this parable.
What more of a reward could God have blessed us with than the reward of eternal life? Receiving the gift of eternal life is the greatest blessing and easiest to accept from the Father by all who will believe in the Son. The parable above is all about God distributing His rewards and blessings as He so desires. Viewing salvation in this parable gives us much more insight into God’s process of distributing blessings and rewards.
Many of you reading this commentary might have asked Jesus into your life at a very early age. My granddaughter for example is only 7 years old and yet was so moved by what she is being taught about Jesus that she asked Him into her life to be her Savior and Lord. On the other hand, I was in my mid 40’s when I made that same decision. There are, of course, those who will live a life of ignoring God’s invitation all together.
Although, if a man or women waits until the last hour of their life to say yes to Jesus and believe, according to God they receive the same reward as those who’ve believed and been born again for most of their lives. There are other rewards in God’s economy but here we are speaking only of the reward of everlasting life.
It’s not up to us to question God on this point. He rewards those who come to Him and place their trust and faith in Him. It’s His good pleasure to reward the believer as He sees fit; He glories in blessing the diligent who seek Him through a thorough study of His word, and He does this to glorify Himself. God is greatly glorified each time someone makes a commitment to Him early in their life and then they live their life according to His Word and will.
But God is also glorified by the fact that He shows mercy on those who’ve rejected Him for almost their entire life. As the very old gentleman or lady lay on their death bed and confess to their loved ones that they have been extremely foolish all their life for rejecting Jesus as Savior and Lord, but now they believe and trust Him to save them even at this late hour. And who gets the glory for that late hour revelation? God.
So we can see that in God’s economy rewards are equal no matter what time of day they are received. No matter when we show up in humble adoration before our Savior and Lord we are all rewarded equally. How can that be? “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:” Acts 10:34. God doesn’t play favorites. He is just and fair in His dealings with all His creation.
I’m not saying that everyone should wait until they are old and grey headed to become a born again follower of Jesus Christ. Those who wait must also contend with the very real fact that their life could be snuffed out instantaneously, forever losing the opportunity to accept God’s free gift of salvation.
Something else that’s missed out on is fellowship with God and the joy of knowing and living a life for Christ. Many people flirt with death completely oblivious of what awaits them on the other side as they spend a lifetime rejecting Christ. Many others have been blinded by the god of this world, thus they see no significance in a God who died for them.
Earlier I mentioned I was in my 40’s when I finally opened my heart to Jesus Christ. What I didn’t mention was the fact that I had many brushes with death prior to my conversion. I was an alcoholic and I rode motorcycles, a very deadly combination. For some reason God spared me and through His grace and mercy I’m here today with a message of hope for anyone who might be where I was twenty years ago.
The crux of the matter is this, waiting until those twilight years before making a decision for Christ is not only foolishness, but like riding motorcycles while in a drunken stupor, very dangerous. Why wait? If you are one of those waiting for the most opportune moment to ask Jesus into your life, do now. Tomorrow may never come.
God bless you all,