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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 01 2023

The parable of the workers

The author writes that when he waited for two days in the workroom of a construction company looking for work he learned important life lessons which he relates to the principles explained in one of the parables of Jesus.

by Darris McNeely

In Matthew 20 Christ relates a parable about workers toiling in a vineyard. The first thing to notice is the workers were hired at different times. Jesus stated: "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard" (Matthew 20:1-2).

At "about the third hour" or 9:00 a.m, the landowner sees others standing in the marketplace and also offers them work. There is plenty of work and this continues throughout the day. At three-hour intervals he returns to the town square and hires additional workers.

The need for more workers could be due to a couple of factors. If more crops needed to be planted there would need to be new hires to keep up with the work. A second possibility may be worker attrition. Some workers who were hired early may have grown tired and left the vineyard, and would have needed to be replaced.

At 5:00 p.m. the eleventh hour, very near the end of the working day, there is still a need for workers, so the owner goes out and hires even more workers "You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive" (Matthew 20:7).

When the work day ends the owner sends his steward to pay the laborers. Those hired at the end of the day are paid first, while those employed at the start of the day were last in line. Every laborer, no matter how long they worked, received the same amount.

After hearing the complaints—"these last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day" (Matthew 20:12)—the landowner replied, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Didn't you agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good? So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:13-16).

Each worker had agreed to work for what the vineyard owner would pay. Those at the beginning of the day had accepted the offer of a denarius as fair and appropriate. No one had reason to complain about what they were given.

The obvious message of this parable is that God is generous and gracious to all. Those called and chosen at the "last" have access to God's Kingdom just as those called and chosen earlier. It is also worth noticing that all received their wage at the end of the day. They had to endure to the end, remaining on the job until the day was done. Only then, in the vineyard of the Lord, is the wage paid.

As this parable shows, the Kingdom of God is like a vineyard full of workers, each hired by the owner to work in a specific role at a specific time. We have to love the work of preparing for the Kingdom of God and we have to stay with it and not give up. God will finish His work on Earth in this age. It is all being done according to a great plan. The calling to God's Kingdom is the highest and noblest in life. If we do not quit or lose heart we will receive the promised reward, God's gift of a crown of righteousness.