Sunday’s Gospel is about the landowner who hired workers for his vineyard early in the morning and then additional workers throughout the day. When it came time to pay the workers, those that began early in the morning and suffered through the hot sun, expected to be paid more than those who were hired later in the day, but they were paid the same and grumbled.

Jesus challenges us to see things in a new way. His teaching stretches our minds and our hearts. He wants us to weigh things on the scales of heavenly worth instead of earthly value. To understand this parable, we need to know why Jesus told it.

Eternal life is not about what we have earned or how we perform. Salvation is not something God owes us for what we have done. It is something He freely gives us because we desperately need it. It is impossible for us to be saved by our own power, but with God’s power it is possible for anyone to be saved.

For centuries this has been called the parable of the workers in the vineyard. However, it would be more accurate to call it the parable of the generous landowner. Jesus isn’t teaching a lesson on economics. This isn’t about fair labor practices. This is all about the generosity and goodness of the landowner; ultimately, the generosity and grace of God.

Despite the offense taken by the 1st hour workers, they were paid a just and sufficient wage. It was the commonly accepted wage. It was the wage for which they had agreed to work, and it was a sufficient wage to supply their needs and provide for their families. He paid them what they needed to be paid. However, he also gave the other workers what they needed also. Not what they deserved, but what they needed. Anything less and they would not have been able to feed their families. Imagine the worker hired at the last hour, trying to make do with only 1/12th of the living wage. The landowner, because he was so generous gave him what he needed.

It’s the same with us. God doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives us what we need. No matter how little we deserve it. No matter how insufficient our effort, God gives us what we need. Salvation isn’t about what we deserve. It’s about what God gives.

Do you get envious when God really blesses another Christian? Do you wonder why it was them and not you? When the landowner asked the first hour workers, are you envious because I am generous. The idea is that the worker could not be grateful because he was so blinded by self- centered envy. He couldn’t be grateful for what he had, because he was so jealous of what others had. When you are jealous of the blessings of others, it blinds us to our own blessings.

It’s strange, we want God to give grace to us, but when he shows grace to others, we may not like it, or we think it’s too much grace.

Here’s the thing about grace. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. God’s grace covers it just the same. Even the very last can be first with heaven’s accounting. It doesn’t matter when you come to him, even the last hour of your life. Yes, those who come at the end of their life miss out on a lifetime of joy and intimacy with God, but God still offers forgiveness and salvation just the same.

What about the workers that the landowner hired later in the day? Why weren’t they there earlier in the day? What were they doing? Were they irresponsible? Were they lazy? Did they have a legitimate excuse for being there late? Maybe their wife or child was sick? We don’t know, because it doesn’t matter. The landowner gave them what they needed. God will give you what you need, if you just come to Him. There is always room in the vineyard for one more. It doesn’t matter how late in the day. It doesn’t matter what you were doing before. God’s kingdom always has room for you.

The Late-arriving Workers – Matthew 20:1-16

JESUS MAFA. The Late-arriving Workers, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved September 16, 2020].
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Record Number: 48296 Last Updated: 2020-05-19 11:14:13 Record Created: 2006-12-15 00:00:00
Institution: Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition.