Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt


The Laborer Is Worthy of His Hire,… or Less So

19 Jul , 2016  

August 3, 2014

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’  16 So the last will be first, and the first last.  (Matthew 20:1-16)

This parable of the workers in the vineyard is one of the Parables of the Kingdom.

The Parables of the Kingdom

Jesus likened the Kingdom to at least ten different worldly illustrations:

  1. The Wheat and Tares – Matthew 13:24
  2. The Mustard Seed– Matthew 13:31
  3. The Leaven – Matthew 13:33
  4. The Treasure Hidden in a Field– Matthew 13:44
  5. The Pearl of Great Price– Matthew 13:45
  6. The Net– Matthew 13:47
  7. The Treasures New and Old– Matthew 13:52
  8. The Impossible Debt – Matthew 20:1
  9. The Laborers in the Vineyard– Matthew 20:2
  10. The Ten Virgins– Matthew 25:1

Laborers in the Vineyard

Today we are looking at the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. You just read how the landowner recruited and paid his workers. Imagine the joyful surprise the workers felt when they received a full day’s wage for one hour’s labor. Wow! What a thrill!

“Hey, guys! Let’s come back to work for this guy tomorrow!”

Some will calculate that they can make it a habit to work only an hour and get a full day’s pay. A few others will have a sense of obligation and will come back to work even harder to pay back the generosity of the owner. Some folk are manipulators, while others are honorable.

That is the condition of mankind. Some people will job the system to get as much as they can, while others work the job to give as much as they can.

Our Master is Almighty God. He came into our lives with a blessing and a demand. Like any employer, He expects those whom He employs to give him a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Our work is the same as Jesus’ work, that is to do the will of the Father; to labor in His vineyard.

Some people he calls early to work. They are privileged to never know life without Jesus. Others he calls as youths. They know a life without Jesus and have tasted the bitterness of sin. Some Jesus calls late in life, even on their death beds. They have seven or eight decades of sin washed away instantly by the blood of Christ.

God, in His mercy, equally rewards each one who turns to Him. Everyone earns condemnation, but receives God’s mercy and eternal life of blessings—love, joy and peace. Billy Graham, after half a century or more of faithful labor in God’s vineyard, receives the same “wage” as the mass murderer who earnestly and honestly repents and calls upon God just before his execution.

Fair is fair

I estimate that the majority of people—believers and unbelievers who read this parable for the first time react, “Hey! That’s not fair!” They agree with the workers who labored in the heat of the day. If the last workers who labored only an hour get a full day’s pay, those who labored all day should get a lot more.

Fair is fair. The 12-hour workers should get a full day’s pay.

The 9-hour workers should get ¾ pay.

The 6-hour workers ½ pay.

The 3-hour workers ¼ pay.

And the 1-hour worker gets 1/12th of a day’s pay.

That’s the just and proper way to pay for workers.

The City of Seattle just raised the minimum wage from $9.32/hr. to $15.00/hr, that is more than a 50% increase. That means that if a burger joint hires an unskilled high school dropout, the owner must pay her $15.00/hour. Well, fair is fair.  The fellow behind the counter has two year’s experience, He knows the job inside and out. After two raises he now receives $12.00/hr. If the owner raises him to just $15.00, he is cheating the experienced worker. In justice for his experience, the owner should be paying $18 or $20/hr. Fair is fair.

Is God cheating the workers in the Kingdom who have always been His chosen people? They have grown in Christ. They have served God and His people for years, some for many years. Are they getting a raw deal because crooks get into the Kingdom on the same basis as the long-term workers?

Of course not! You knew the answer before I finished the question. Well, if this is not cheating anyone, how can that be?

Kingdom of God

Jesus used these Parables of the Kingdom to show what the Kingdom of God is LIKE, not what it IS.

  1. It is like – separation of the good from the bad—No bad thing is allowed in Heaven
  2. It is like – an insignificant thing that results in a world-filling blessing
  3. it is like – a growing presence that permeates everything and affects all
  4. it is like – a discovery that is worth the world
  5. It is like – a beauty that must be possessed and all costs
  6. It is like – choosing the best regardless of kind and discarding the worst regardless of kind
  7. It is like – things that are wonderful and appreciated because they are both ancient and modern
  8. It is like – merciful forgiveness of all, and yet justice to punish all
  9. It is like – a generous reward for Labor no matter how much or little
  10. It is like – being always adequately prepared for a party

Heaven is actually none of these things. It is like nothing we have ever experienced before. It is beyond our wildest imaginings. Paul spoke in his second letter to Corinth, chapter 12, of the man who was given a vision of “the third heaven”.  Paul said, “he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” It apparently was glorious, but he could not express it in human language.

We live in a material world, but we try to understand Heaven, a spiritual world. To do so we must throw out all understanding of how things are. In the first place, Heaven is eternal. It has no time. This means there is no first, second, last.

Heaven is infinite. It has no space. This means there is no distance, no up or down. The physical laws that govern our universe do not apply in Heaven.

However all that is spiritual will be in Heaven. The fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in everyone. Peter talks of our love for Jesus who we cannot see, and of “joy unspeakable and fill of glory”. In the Revelation to the Apostle John, there appears to be perpetual worship of Almighty God. All these spiritual things we, you and I, will experience in God’s Kingdom.

Every believer, whether translated or raptured, will be a part of that innumerable throng worshipping around the Presence of God. Because there is no space, we will not be in ranks, but each will be as close to God as every other. All these spiritual truths will be in Heaven and we will all experience them.

Paul teaches us that we will know fully, as we are also known. God knows us completely. In His Kingdom, we will completely know each and every other person, and they will know us just as completely. Intimacy of relationships will give us all a loving heart for one another. However, since God is infinite and we are not, we probably can never know Him completely. Yet we will have an enormously greater knowledge of Him than we are able to have in this life.

As we begin to expand our perceptions, we can gain an appreciation of the otherness of Heaven. And yet it will not be alien to us who are believers. We have an appreciation of how good and comfortable it will be to be in the Presence of the God who loves us, the Savior who died for us and the Holy Spirit that has been teaching us all through our lives in Christ. There will be a familiarity of heaven, because we will be home at last.

You can see that the rewards in Heaven are magnificent; they are fabulous. All the world’s treasures fade in comparison to the Treasures Old and New in God’s Kingdom. The necessity of differential of rewards for different skills, achievements or number of hours worked shrinks to insignificance. Whether one is paid one day’s pay for two days work or for one hour of work is negligible in the scope of the blessings of God’s kingdom.

There will be no competition for rewards, so God’s generosity will be hailed by all. The love that will be manifested in us will cause us to rejoice in God’s blessings to others as much or more than in His blessings to us.

Our Love for Our Master

When we appreciate the magnitude of God’s blessings that await us, it will cause us to be willing to work unstintingly for our loving Father. Our gratitude will impel us to labor in His vineyard through the heat of the day. Our love will move us to willingly engage in hard, tiring labor.

You see God is a merciful and loving Master, and yet He is a hard taskmaster. He is so because the fields are white unto harvest and the time on this material earth is short. We must work diligently for the night is coming when no one can work.

God hires us on for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year. We get no lunch break, no sick days or weekends or holidays off. But we do get marvelous job security and His retirement plan is out of sight.

Our love for our Master will press us into the work. Our gratitude for His blessing in this life and in the glorious life to come should lead us eagerly to put our best efforts into the work of the Kingdom. In this frame of mind, rewards become immaterial in both senses of the term.

Immaterial, that is, not a concern to us.

Immaterial, that is spiritual, and not material.

Our rewards will be in Heaven; however, just living the life in Christ here and now should be reward enough.

Seek to be a Laborer Worthy of Hire

The days are short and the night is approaching, so our every effort should be bent toward harvesting souls for God’s Kingdom. The time is not far off when the government will seek to put a stop to anyone speaking name of Christ, even in private. The time is not far off when brutal persecution—first fines, then jail, and later torture and death will be the lot of outspoken believers. The time for our proclamation of the Good news of God’s Kingdom is upon us. The time of our service for our Master is here. Seek now to be a laborer worthy of your hire.

When we hold back because of timidity, we will be betraying the sacrifice of Christ. When we fail because we have not tried, we will be failing our Loving Father. While God will save each and everyone he has elected, still he intends for each and every one of us to speak the word in season and out of season. In so doing, we can be God’s instruments to bring others to Jesus and salvation. The act of witnessing, laboring in God’s vineyard, is an exciting challenge. And then when one we are witnessing to turns her heart or his heart over to Jesus, God rewards us with an overflow of His joy unspeakable and full of glory.

“Why stand ye here all day idle? Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you!”


Our Gracious Master and Lord, You have commanded us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, making them disciples. We have done so, more or less. Give us the understanding that this world is our temporary field of labor. Here we are charged with being responsible to be diligently laboring to take the good news to those in the world around us.

Holy Spirit, give us boldness beyond our nature so that we can, without fear, tell others about Jesus loving sacrifice for them. Give us the confidence that we will have the words to say. Instruct us in the Scriptures and give us the knowledge to speak in ways that will touch the hearts of others.

Our generous, merciful Father, pour out upon us Your power to be Your workers, eagerly pursuing the labor. Give us the freedom to shrug off negative responses and refusals. Grant us the joy of leading many to Jesus, and then greeting them as new brothers and sisters in Christ.

O God, we are Yours. Make us conformed to the image of your Son our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.


Additional Scriptures

Matthew 20 1-16 Laborers in the Vineyard

John 4:34-38 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

Jesus said to them, “My food is doing the will of him who sent me and finishing the work he has given me. Don’t you say, ‘Four months more and then comes the harvest’? But I tell you to open your eyes and look to the field—they are gleaming white, all ready for the harvest! The reaper is already being rewarded and getting in a harvest for eternal life, so that both sower and reaper may be glad together. For in this harvest the old saying comes true, ‘One man sows and another reaps.’ I have sent you to reap a harvest for which you never laboured; other men have worked hard and you have reaped the results of their labours.”

John 9:4 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

“We must carry on the work of him who sent me while the daylight lasts. Night is coming, when no one can work.”


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