Another Parable

Matthew 20:1-16

In looking at this very well known parable, the first thing I would like to call your attention to is the fact that it isn’t here in Matthew’s narrative standing all on its own; it is a continuation of the discussion we covered last time in 19:23-30, and there is no scene shift of any kind, in spite of the chapter division. Remember, the chapters and verses are arbitrary human devices for reference purposes only, and sometimes we must wonder why they put them where they did. We can be certain of this because of the way this passage begins: “For the kingdom of heaven is like…” Notice that Jesus is still speaking, so after He said “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” in 19:30, He said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like…” in 20:1. Got it? Good!

Thus, in chapter 19 we have the whole discussion with the rich young man about entering the kingdom, his possessions and all of that, followed by the explanation with the disciples, and moving beyond this world’s priorities to follow Jesus, in which the first (rich, powerful or well off in whatever way) end up as the last, and those who are less fortunate in whatever way being the first  and now Jesus is amplifying the “first and last” statement.

In the parable, we have the owner of a vineyard who is hiring day labor to work the vineyard. He hires workers several times during the day so that each group works a different amount of time in the vineyard, and when the end of the day comes, they all receive the same pay, to the annoyance of the first group who worked all day long. The owner of the vineyard pointed out that he paid them what they agreed to work for, and if that meant that he might seem to be overpaying the ones who worked a shorter time, that was his business; he chose to be generous to them.

Just as with His explanation of the conversation with the rich young man, Jesus is teaching that God’s grace is not something we can earn, and that it is not an entitlement, it stems entirely from God’s graciousness… could it be that’s why it is called “grace”?

The bottom line is really quite simple: When considering the things of God, we cannot understand them by the values and wisdom of Man, for instead we must take a heavenly view. As the chapter moves forward, we will see more of this new Kingdom view of things.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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15 Responses to Another Parable

  1. paulfg says:

    Mulling this well-known parable over in light of your words … the world puts a price on each of us as to our worth in work, a price on each of us when it comes to healing us, we are taught to “value ourselves”, so much of what the world consists of is valuations of self. Yet Love doesn’t. Love loves. The most unlikely unions of love keep on recurring throughout history. Is it all just “chemical attraction”? Maybe – but that (for me) doesn’t explain a 30, 40, 50, 60+ year loving relationship.

    Maybe it is why I have an “issue” with the heavy sacrifice, burden and “work” of being a “good Christian”. It is too closely linked (in our hearts and minds and culture and very being) to earning and worth and personal effort. Maybe that is why Love appeals so much as the answer.

    Thank you for the thinking our aloud.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Paul, your comments gave me a thought…

      “Maybe it is why I have an “issue” with the heavy sacrifice, burden and “work” of being a “good Christian”. It is too closely linked (in our hearts and minds and culture and very being) to earning and worth and personal effort. Maybe that is why Love appeals so much as the answer.”

      My reaction is this: Love is the question; now what is the answer?

      (Maybe I should be writing a post; I’ll try to be pithy…

      First, God loved us, second, we loved Him: What does love look like? In God’s case, He sent His Son to express His love; He serves us. In the second case, we serve Him to express our love. Culture may see this as a burden, but when is expressing our love ever really a burden? We might be expressing our love by doing something active, something called “work” by others, but when is expressing love ever really work?

      Our culture, the world we live in might see sacrifice, work and burden, but only because they do not yet comprehend the things of God, the things of love.

    • Little Monk says:

      I recently echoed this sentiment in a different post, saying (of myself)…

      “Anyway, maybe 20 years or so ago, the entire issue [of getting a “Rewarding Crown in Heaven”] just “dropped off my radar”. Somewhere along in there I slowly realized that “God was doing all the heavy lifting”. That I just didn’t feel like I was involved in any long, arduous, demanding race of endurance in this Christian Kingdom life. It all got… well… rather fun! Living in as “Gospel a way as I could” just made me happy! Much happier than lots of the people among whom I journeyed.”

  2. Catching a Kingdom mindset is the hardest work in Christianity, because so much of it runs counter to how this world has taught us to think.

  3. etaxwiz says:

    I find that I get my greatest joy in life before, during, and after serving others. I’ve always thought that was the Holy Spirit in me telling me that I was a child of God. It is humbling no matter how you see it.

  4. bcaudle77 says:

    just a thought, I wonder if this could go with this parable, if not no biggie still something we have to understand. We are all on different journeys in our life, some people are saved at a very young age, never get into trouble live nice and old, have a great life and are blessed for 70 plus years. and some people have a very rough life, struggle after struggle, major struggle and get saved in the last few years of their live.

    some might look at them as “lucky” (obliviously not a good Christian word to being with), with God there is no luck, some might look at that person and only following the Lord for a short time and they got saved?

    This parable made me think about different times of work/lives and different payments. interesting.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I would say that there is an application there, while not Jesus’ primary point at the time; certianly from our perspective it would apply; at least that’s how it looks to me

  5. pipermac5 says:

    While we are promised “crowns” and “mansions”, I won’t in the least be disappointed if my “crown” is a ball-cap and my “mansion” is a simple cabin. All glory and majesty belong to the Lamb, not to me. I will just be happy to be there.



  6. pipermac5 says:

    Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
    Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

    Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
    Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
    Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
    Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

    Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

    Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
    Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

    Only through His grace and mercy will we even get to be there. We can’t “earn” it. We can’t “merit” it. He doesn’t “owe” it to us.

    But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)



  7. pipermac5 says:

    The “treasure” I am laying up in Heaven is not in hopes of a greater-reward, but in gratitude for the great reward that already awaits me which I have neither earned nor deserve.



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