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The Vineyard Workers


   PART II: THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM

           CHAPTER 10 THE VINEYARD WORKERS

                             Introduction

  Jesus gave The Parable of the Vineyard Workers in
         response to Peter's question in Matthew 19:27:

         Peter answered him  "We have left  everything to follow you!
         What then will there be for us?"  (Matthew 19:27, New  International Version).

         This parable is found only in Matthew 20:1-16: 

 
The Story
  "For the kingdom of heaven is like
                   a landowner who went out early in the
                   morning to hire men to work in his
                   vineyard.    He agreed to pay them a
                   denarius for the day and sent them into
                   his vineyard.

                    "About the third hour he went out
                   and   saw   others   standing   in    the
                   marketplace doing nothing.  He told them,
                   `You also go and work in my vineyard, and
                   I will pay you whatever is right.'  So
                   they went.

  "He went out again about the sixth
                   hour and the ninth hour and did the same
                   thing.    About the eleventh hour he went
                   out and found still others   standing
                   around.  He asked them `Why have you been
                   standing here   all   day   long   doing
                   nothing?'

  "`Because no one has hired us,' they
                   answered.  "He said to them,`You also go
                   and work in my vineyard.'

                         "When evening came, the owner of the
                   vineyard said to his foreman, ` Call the
                   workers and   pay    them their wages,
                   beginning with the last ones hired and
                   going on to the first.'

  "The workers who were hired about
                   the eleventh hour came and each received
                   a denarius.  So when those came who were
                   hired first, they expected to receive
                   more.  But each one of them also received
                   a denarius.  When they received it, they
                   began to grumble against the landowner.

  `These men who were hired last worked
                   only one hour,' they said, `and you have
                   made them equal to us who have borne the
                   burden of the work and the heat of the
                   day.'

                      "But he answered one of them,
                   `Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
                   Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?
                   Take   your pay and go.  I want to give
                   the man who was hired last the same as I
                   gave  you.  Don't I have the right to do
                   what I want with my own money?    Or are
                   you envious because I am generous?

"So the last will be first, and the
                   first will be last."   (Matthew 20:1-16,
                   New International Version).
 

  Ralph Earle adds that people wanting work would gather
         in the  marketplace  about 6:00 a.m.   Grapes had to be
         picked promptly or the harvest would be lost.  [BEACON BIBLE
         COMMENTARY  (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press), MATTHEW, By
         Ralph Earle, pp. 100 ff.].

  The householder (estate owner) hired a group of workers
         at 6:00 a.m., to work for one denarius per day.  (See  "HOUR"
         in Glossary.)    He then went to the marketplace about 9:00
         a.m. and hired more workers with the understanding that he
         would pay them what was right.  The estate owner went out
         again at 3:00 p.m., and   5:00 p.m. and hired them with the
         same understanding.  (Note: the men who were hired at 5:00
         p.m.  were standing around in the marketplace because no one
         had hired them.  They wanted work).

  When the day was over, the estate owner had the foreman
         settle with the workers, beginning with those hired at 5:00
         p.m., who had only worked one hour.  He paid them all a
         denarius.    When the ones   hired at 6:00 p.m. received a
         denarius also, they began to murmur--the Greek word suggests
         the buzzing of bees.  They complained that they only received
         a denarius after working in the heat all day, when those
         hired at 5:00 p.m., and had only worked one hour, received a
         denarius also. The estate owner then replied,

  `Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
                   Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?
                   Take your pay and go.  I want give the
                   man who was hired last the same as I gave
                   you.  Don't I have the right to do what I
                   want with my own money?    Or are you
                   envious because I am generous?'  (Matthew
                   20:13-15, New International Version).
 
                   The Interpretation
   The characters in the story and who they represent in
            reality are:

              1.  The estate owner            God
              2.  The vineyard workers      Christians

              Morgan reminds us that ALL the vineyard workers worked
         and applied themselves faithfully.  (Morgan, THE PARABLES AND
         METAPHORS OF OUR LORD, p. 115).  So this parable is not about
         some working and some not working.

  Those who were hired at 5:00 p.m.  came in so late
         because they did not have an opportunity to come in at 6:00
         a.m.  They were not lazy.

   Barclay says that this parable "contains within it truth
         which goes to the very heart of the Christian religion."   He
         sees two original lessons:

              1.  A warning to the disciples (they had come in
              early).

              2.  A warning to the Jews (they realized that
              they were God's chosen people and therefore looked
              down on Gentiles.

              He also sees four present lessons: 

              3. The comfort of God--no matter    when    one is
              saved, he is equally dear and precious to God.
              Both the young Christian and the old   Christian
              will be equally received into heaven at death.

              4.  The compassion of God. 

              5.  The generosity of God.  All service ranks the
              same with God--motive is important.  All God gives
              is of grace [undeserved favor and help].

              6.  The supreme lesson: THE WHOLE POINT OF WORK IS
              THE SPIRIT IN, WHICH WORK IS DONE." (Barclay, DAILY
              STUDY BIBLE SERIES, MATTHEW, pp. 246 ff.).

   In the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Jesus teaches against
         legalism, covetousness and selfishness.  He also teaches that
         he will supply our needs.  All the workers received a day's
         wages at the end of the day, which would be enough to feed
         their families.

                              Central Truth

  GOD WANTS SERVICE MOTIVATED BY LOVE.
                               Conclusion

  Therefore, let us appreciate our Saviour and rejoice in
         his great salvation!    The greatest way we can express our
         appreciation to our Heavenly Father is to obey him--to work
         for him because we love him.  END