Workers in the vineyard

Jesus’ purpose in telling this story was to illustrate what he had just said concerning God’s unexpected gift to those who at present appear to be disadvantaged (see Matt 19:30). He was not setting out rules for wages and employment, but giving an illustration of God’s grace. The sovereign God takes pity on a needy world, and generously gives his salvation to all who accept his offer.

At the beginning of the day, a landowner hired people to work in his vineyard for an agreed wage (Matt 20:1-2). At several stages through the day he hired additional workers, then at the end of the day paid them their wages (Matt 20:3-8).

When those who had worked all day found that the landowner paid the same amount to the late- comers as he paid to them, they complained. The landowner reminded them that he had paid them the amount they had agreed to, and if he paid others the same amount, that was his concern. The discontent arose not because of any injustice in the landowner, but because of jealousy in the all-day workers (Matt 20:9-15).

 

The blessings of the kingdom are the same for all who enter, whether Jews who had worshipped God for centuries, or Gentiles who had just been saved from heathenism; whether scribes who had studied God’s law for many years, or tax collectors who had just repented; whether those who had served God for a lifetime, or those converted in old age. But whereas the most unlikely people entered the kingdom, those for whom it had been prepared were excluded (Matt 20:16).

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