PART II: THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
CHAPTER 10 THE VINEYARD WORKERSIntroduction
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:
"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
"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
"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
"`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
"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).
GOD WANTS SERVICE MOTIVATED BY LOVE.Ralph Earle adds that people wanting work would gather`Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
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,
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 InterpretationThe characters in the story and who they represent in
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
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
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