Laborers in the Vineyard
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
I. The context of the parable
A. A rich, young ruler had come to Jesus asking how to be saved. - Matthew 19:16-22
1. Jesus told him to follow the law, but the young man wasn’t satisfied with this. He wanted something more.
2. Jesus told him that if he was aiming for perfection, sell all that he had and follow Jesus - Matthew 19:21
3. However, this was too much of a commitment for the young man.
a. He was wealthy and he was unable to give up his wealth, even to please God.
B. Jesus comments on this to his disciples. He tells them that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. - Matthew 19:23-26
1. It is not that the way is not opened to them. It is that their wealth is too often more important.
2. The disciples are amazed. If the rich, with all the opportunities gained by their wealth, could not be saved, then what hope have the not-so-wealthy?
3. If it was just up to man, then the disciples are right – no one could be saved. However, it is not up to man, but up to God. God can make the impossible happen.
C. Peter then asks what will they receive for following Christ - Matthew 19:27-30
1. Jesus had offered the rich young ruler perfection. The disciples had done what was asked of the young ruler, though the value of what they gave up may not have been nearly as great. What would they receive?
2. It is not a bad question. Each Christian should know the value of his life as a child of God. Why are you a Christian? What benefit will you derive from being a Christian?
3. Jesus said that in a certain time:
a. The period of regeneration (or new birth)
(1) A reference to Christians being born again - I Peter 1:22-23
(2) Jesus said that only by being born again could a person enter the kingdom - John 3:3-6
(3) We put on Christ through baptism - Galatians 3:26-29
(4) Being baptized into Christ means we walk in a new life - Romans 6:3-4
b. At the same time, Jesus will be sitting on the throne
(1) Jesus is now at the right hand of God, ruling - I Peter 3:21-22
(2) Christ is now reigning - I Corinthians 15:23-26
c. The twelve then are also now sitting on thrones judging Israel
(1) This is one of the things the disciples received for following Jesus.
(2) They brought the message of God
(3) What they taught judges the world - Matthew 18:18
(a) Not to say they made up the rules.
(b) They delivered the rules that came from heaven.
4. What about the rest of us?
a. If we are willing to put Jesus absolutely first in our lives – before family, homes, or careers
b. We will receive much more
c. We will have eternal life
II. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
A. A landowner goes out early in the morning to hire laborers.
1. The landowner is God
2. The laborers are people who when hired become members of the church
B. An agreement is reached between the landowner and the laborers
1. God offers eternal life to those who serve him.
C. Periodically, the landowner goes out and finds more laborers and they too are invited to work
1. They are offered payment of whatever is right.
2. Those called are at various stages of their life.
a. Some find God and agree to work for him in their youth.
b. Others are looking for God (employment), but they do not find Him until later points in their lives.
D. At the end of day, the landowner chooses to pay every worker an equal amount, no matter how long they served.
1. This causes those who started early to complain.
2. However, the landowner points out that he paid what was agreed.
3. Their complaint was that he was gracious to those who came later. - Matthew 20:13-15
III. What can we learn from this parable?
A. Everyone should respond when they are called
1. All the workers in this parable immediately went to work when they were called.
2. No one said “I’ll start later when it is not so hot.”
3. This is not a parable to justify putting off becoming a Christian.
4. These people were looking for work (Christianity), but some were unable to find it until later in life.
5. But once found, they went immediately to work.
B. Those called are workers
1. There is a contrast between those working and those standing idle.
2. Too many want to be employed by Christ, but don’t want to work
a. There is a story about a fellow who was employed by a duke in Europe. “James,” said the duchess to the employee, “how long have you been with us?” “About thirty years,” he replied. “According to my records,” said the duchess, “you were employed to look after the dog.” “Yes, Ma’am,” James replied. The duchess said, “James, that dog died twenty years ago.” James said, “Yes, ma’am; What would you like me to do next?”
b. That seems to describe some members of the church. They avoid doing anything until they must.
3. No offer is made to the idle, only to the workers.
C. We should not question God
1. God has the right to do as He pleases.
2. The Jews did not like the offer of salvation being extended to the Gentiles - Romans 9:20-24
3. If God chooses to be generous to some, what right do we have to complain. Is not our own salvation due to God giving us what we did not deserve?
D. We should not envy fellow Christians
1. Remember Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27? It is easy for faithful Christians to think, “I have done more than others; therefore, I deserve more than others.”
2. We must learn to walk humbly before God
a. The Gentiles must not become prideful because they replaced the Jews - Romans 11:11-22
b. We must walk humbly with our brethren - I Peter 5:5-6
c. Even when we do our best, we are only doing what God expects of us - Luke 17:10
E. We must labor faithfully
1. If we do our part, God will definitely do as He has promised.
2. The fact that each will receive the same reward cannot be used as incentive to do the least we can.
3. All the workers were busy picking grapes, from those hired early in the morning to those hired late in the evening.
4. If they had not worked, the landowner would not have been pleased and they would not have received compensation.
IV. When you know what you should do, do not delay. Give God the best service that you can.