Parable Of The Laborers
PARABLE OF THE LABORERS
I would like for you to look at the very first sentence in this parable.
- Jesus says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like…”
- What this statement is, it is Jesus’ way of saying “Let me give you a glimpse into heaven…what it will be like in heaven.
- He is saying “Let me give you a peek into the mind of God…the way that God sees things…the way that God does things.”
But there is something else about this statement.
- It speaks of a contrast…a contrast between the way that men may think…and the way that God thinks…the way that God sees things and the way that men see things.
- Jesus is saying “Your world is this way…but the kingdom of heaven is like this.”
- So Jesus uses this parable to make a contrast…a comparison between the way the world is…and the way God is.
So let’s look at this parable and let’s see what Jesus has to tell us about “the kingdom of heaven.”
Now, the very first thing I want you to notice is verse 30 of chapter 19…the verse that immediately precedes this parable.
- Jesus says, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”
- Now, drop down to verse 16 of chapter 20 and you find basically the same thing except in reverse order.
- Jesus says, “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”
- Sandwiched in between these two statements is this parable and that indicates that this parable is an explanation of what it means for the “first to be last, and the last to be first.”
- What does Jesus mean when He says, “The last shall be first, and the first, last?”
- Is He saying that in the kingdom of heaven some will have more favor than others?
- Is there something we can do to “be first”…and is there something we can do to keep from being last?
- Can we earn a better, more privileged level in heaven?
- What is Jesus talking about?
We read it but let’s go through the parable again. Jesus says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”
- And in vs. 2 the landowner “reaches an agreement” with the laborers for a denarius for the day…or a days wages…and he sends them into the vineyard.
About the 3rd hour he sees others “standing idle” in the market place and he tells them, “You too, go into the vineyard and work. And whatever is right I will give you.”
Again, about the sixth hour…and the 9th hour he did the same.
And about the 11th hour he went out and found others standing and he asked them, “Why are you standing here idle all day long?”
- And they answered him and said, “Because no one hired us.”
- So he tells them, “You too, go into the vineyard.”
Now, when evening came, the land owner called his foreman and he tells his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages.”
- “But don’t pay those who came first…first. Don’t start with them. Instead, those who came last…pay them first. And the first group, pay them last.”
So the foreman does…and those who were hired last…the 11th hour workers…they were paid first.
- And even though they only worked a short time, they received a full day’s wages.
And finally, when those hired first came, they thought that they would and should receive more…but they too only received a day’s wages…the same as the others.
- And when they received it the passage says they “grumbled at the landowner.”
- That word “grumbled” means “to mutter, to speak in a low private voice, to murmur, to express an indignant complaint.”
And look at what they say in verse 12: ‘ These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
- Now, initially they seem to have a legitimate complaint.
- The other workers shouldn’t have gotten paid the same…they didn’t work as long.
But look now at what the landowner says in verse 13:
“But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14’Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15’Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”
- So what is Jesus teaching us in this parable?
I think the first and most obvious lesson that Jesus is teaching us is “be sure you are in the kingdom.”
- What did the people outside of the vineyard get paid? Nothing!
- Those outside the vineyard were “idle”…useless…non-productive toward salvation.
- It was only in the “vineyard” that they received any compensation at all…and that is one of the first lessons that Jesus is teaching us.
Every day the Lord is looking for laborers for His vineyard…everyday He seeks and invites.
- For some it is the “early morning” of your life.
- For others it is the “third hour”…and for some it is the “sixth hour”…and for some it is the “ninth hour”…and for others it is the “eleventh hour” of your life.
- When these laborers had opportunity to enter into the vineyard they didn’t wait.
- What about some here this morning…time is passing by…it won’t be long before the early morning becomes the 3rd hour…and the 3rd hour becomes the 6th…and so on…will you wait to long?
- The reality is you never know for sure what hour it is in your life…you never know when it will be too late…make sure you are in the kingdom before the hours of your life are gone.
The second thing that I believe Jesus is teaching us is that “in the kingdom of heaven” every one gets the same.
- It makes no difference how long someone has served in the “vineyard” the important thing is they were invited in and they came.
- Yes, some have labored longer…and some have endured more hardships…than others…but the rewards of heaven are not determined by how long you serve or what you have endured…they are based on the graciousness and goodness of God.
- And those who are new in the kingdom will receive the same rewards as those who have served for many years.
Does this parable teach us to put off entering into the kingdom until the “eleventh” hour because “after all, you are going to get the same thing as those who have been in the kingdom for 50 years!”
- The problem with that kind of thinking is you have no idea what hour of your life you are in…you may be 20 years old and already be in the 11th
- The thing to do is enter into the kingdom and don’t begrudge others who will receive the same thing as you like these first hired laborers did.
- Instead, rejoice over the fact that the Lord invited you in and that your reward is not based on how long you have or will serve in His vineyard.
- It is based on His mercy and grace.
- In the kingdom of heaven everyone gets the same.
Let me ask you this:
- In Romans 3:21 the apostle Paul tells us what God has graciously done for us. He says that “through faith in Jesus Christ we are justified as a gift…by His grace…and that we have redemption which is in Christ.”
- In Romans 5 Paul tells us that “since we have been justified by faith…we have peace…and we have hope of the glory of God…and we have salvation from the wrath of God…and we have reconciliation.”
- In Eph. 2:4 he tells us that “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
If we had to earn these things…how long would we have to work?
- 10 years, 20, 40, 50?
- What if you only worked 10 years and then died…would you have worked only long enough to have earned justification…but not salvation?
- We could work every minute and every hour of our lives…and we could never make even the down payment on the blessings that God provides.
And think about this?
- What would be a just compensation for all the work you have done in the Lord’s kingdom?
- Some of these workers came to an agreement on what they thought was fair…so in your mind…what would you think is a just compensation for all the work you have done for the Lord?
- I am afraid that some of us, most of us, it we were to be compensated monetarily for what we have done, we wouldn’t get very much.
The point is, what we receive is not based on how long you have served and what you have done.
- It is based on what “God wishes to give” and instead of begrudging others because they haven’t been in the kingdom as long as “I” have, we need to thank God that we don’t get what we deserve…and what we have really earned.
And then a third thing I think this parable teaches us has to do with the true spirit of a Christian.
- Notice in the parable that most of the workers went in to work without thinking about their pay.
- They didn’t require an agreement…they just simply trusted the landowner to do what he thought was right.
- They depended entirely on the generosity of the landowner.
- They did their work trusting that the “owner” would reward them.
- That is the spirit of true Christian service and it is so contradictory to the spirit of the world.
The spirit of the world says, “What’s in it for me? How much am I going to get for this?”
- And the spirit of the world says, “The more I do the more I want to get paid.”
- Well, the spirit of a true Christian is not that way.
- The man who really serves God does not serve for what he might get paid.
- He serves fully trusting in the grace and mercy of the Lord…knowing that his feeble efforts could never buy what the Lord will give.
There are several more lessons in this parable but lets go back now to the two statements that came before and after: “But many who are first will be last; and the last will be first.”
- “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.”
- Is Jesus telling us that there are different degrees of reward in the kingdom?
- How bad is being “last” in heaven compared to being “first?”
- Is that what Jesus is saying here?
- I don’t think so…I think Jesus is saying just what the workers said in verse 12: “In the kingdom of heaven there will be no “first” or “last”…all will be equal.
- The main thing is to make sure that is where you are.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023