We all have different perspectives on work. Some of us are
blue-collar. Some white-collar. Some are labor. Some management.
Some are in unions. Some probably are opposed to unions. But no
matter the background and outlook, the story of the workers in the
vineyard in Matthew
20:1-16 causes us to stop and scratch our heads. For all
the questions we may have about the wage policies of this
landowner, one thing is sure—workers are wanted. Examine this
parable and learn what God expects of us as workers in His
We are either working in the vineyard or idle in the
What is the kingdom like? It is like a landowner who saw
two kinds of people—people who were working in his vineyard and
people who were idle. If a person is not working in his vineyard,
then they were idle no matter what they were doing.
We are either working in this kingdom or we are idle no
matter what we are doing. There are lots of good things to do in
our society. We can be active in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H,
PTA, Junior Achievement, Red Cross, American Cancer Society,
Habitat for Humanity, inner city soup kitchens. But if we are not
working in Christ’s kingdom, we are idle. If we are not working
in the kingdom, we may be helping produce good, healthy, wealthy,
intelligent citizens for our great nation, but when they die they
will all go to hell.
Only the work in the kingdom of Christ has eternal
significance. Only the work in the kingdom brings souls into
Christ and allows them eternal life. Do not misunderstand me. I am
not suggesting that we should not be involved in the other works I
mentioned a moment ago. We live in this world and are part of its
workings. We should strive to make it the best place we can. But
do not lose perspective. Everything else is pointless if the work
of the kingdom is not done.
Kingdom members are supposed to be workers.
What is the kingdom like? It is like a group of people
working in a vineyard. It is an ever growing group of people
working in the vineyard. It is not people snacking on the grapes.
It is not people lounging in hammocks. It is workers. They get
sweaty and dirty. Their hands, knees and backs ache. That is
20:6, the landowner asks some people why they were
standing around idle. Their claim in vs.
7 was no one had hired them. How sad it would be if the
landowner had to come up to people he had already hired to quiz
them on their idleness.
God expects us to be workers. I am reminded of John
15:8. Our job is not to bask in God’s glory but to bear
fruit that glorifies Him further. Jesus set the example in John
4:34-38. He knew He was here to do His Father’s work. So
Too many people come into Christ’s vineyard and just want
to bask in the promise of the reward. They do not want to get
“sweaty and dirty.” They do not want to have “backaches.”
They do not want to deal with toil and labor. But they want to
believe they will be paid at the end of the day. We must each ask
ourselves, if the Landowner came into our part of the vineyard,
would He have to ask us why we are standing around idle? At the
close of this lesson, I am going to offer an invitation. It is not
an invitation to be a warm body, but to be a worker.
Our reward is by grace.
What is the kingdom like? It is like a group of workers who
get paid the same amount, even if they have worked different
amounts of time. Now that is the most striking part of this story,
because it is absolutely unlike what any of our employers would
do. In fact, if any of our employers tried that, they would have
to deal with unions, strikes and lawsuits.
The reason this is the most striking part of the parable is
because it highlights the parable’s purpose. This parable was
part of Jesus’ answer to Peter. And it actually extends from
what Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Matthew
19:21. “… go, sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven …” The rich ruler left
disappointed and Jesus carried on the teaching with His disciples.
But Peter was bubbling to ask, “If that ruler would have
treasure in heaven, what will we, who have already left all to
follow you, get” (vs.
27)? Jesus’ explanation to Peter is they would receive a
great reward. But once again, Peter misunderstood. Jesus had to
explain that Peter would not receive a greater reward than any
other Christian because the first would be last, and the last
first. In Christ, there is no seniority or rank. We are all equal
and will receive equal reward.
Our natural reaction is, “Why? If I have been a hard
working Christian twice as long as you, I deserve a better reward.
If I maintain my faithfulness more consistently than you, I
deserve a better reward. If I accomplish a greater amount of work
than you, I deserve more.” Isn’t this the way it should work?
Not before God. Why is our reward the same? Because our reward is
not based on merit. We do not deserve any reward, no matter how
long we have worked. Therefore, we cannot possibly deserve a
greater reward than anyone else. Remember Jesus’ words in Luke
17:10. When we work in Christ’s vineyard, bearing fruit
to glorify God, we are doing only what we should have done. We are
not earning anything. God does not owe us anything. But, as with
this landowner, He has agreed to reward us. He is faithful to His
promises. We should not condemn Him for His generosity, but be
thankful for what He has promised us. Notice our reward in Matthew
Of course, some would say, “Why should I join the work
force now if I can sign up later and get the same reward? I will
live it up now, repent later and I get the best of both worlds.”
First, can I convince you that following God’s law typically
provides the best of this world? Because even when this world
offers hardship, following God’s will provides the comfort to
face it all. Second, can you tell me what hour it is for you?
Which invitation to work is the one you will hear today? Is it the
early morning? Is it the third, sixth, ninth hour? Or is it the
11th hour? How do you know? Treat this invitation as though it is
the 11th hour. If you accept the work and come to find out it is
only the third hour, you will have the comfort of knowing you are
prepared. But if you do not accept, payday may come tonight and
then it will be too late.
As we conclude this look at this parable and the kingdom of
God, take note of vss.
6-7. The landowner came at the 11th hour and asked these
people, “Why are you idle?” They responded, “Because no one
has hired us.” Have you ever looked deeply at that response?
These men claimed their idleness was not their own fault. Their
idleness was the fault of all the employers out there. But were
they really idle because no employer had hired them? This
landowner had come to the marketplace hiring any and everyone who
would work four times already? Where were these men? Were they
sleeping in? … not paying attention? … avoiding the call?
These men would like to say that their idleness was someone
else’s fault, but a closer look demonstrates only the men
themselves were to blame. But in the 11th hour, these men changed,
they were no longer idle but became workers in the vineyard and
they were rewarded. But notice, only those who became workers in
the vineyard were rewarded. When it came time to reward the
workers, the landowner did not go again into the marketplace and
find idle people and give them the reward as well. And anyone
still idle in the final hour, during the time of reckoning and
reward, went unpaid. And they had only themselves to blame. If you
have been idle, do not continue in idleness, step into the
vineyard and get to work, bearing fruit to the glory of the Father
15:8). If you have already been hired, but have been
lounging about the vineyard, repent and get to work. If you are
still standing in the marketplace, when payday comes you will not
be able to blame the Landowner. You will find judgment and can
only blame yourself. Even now the Lord is seeking to hire you into
His vineyard. It may be your 11th hour, do not wait any longer,
arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, becoming a worker
in God’s vineyard.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ