Matthew 20:1-16-Labourers in The Vineyard

As you read this parable in Matthew 20:1-16, recognize that nobody was cheated! Not a single worker was underpaid. While it may be argued (based on human, subjective, business comparisons) that some were seemingly overpaid, nobody was cheated. The complaint of the early workers offered no evidence of wrongdoing. It was a complaint born in hearts of jealousy, not objective reality. "None of them received less than they expected and many received more. We should rejoice in the good others receive and not to be envious. 

The landowner had the right to "overpay" the late workers. He said "whatever is right you will receive." He determined what was right, not based on ordinary human accounting, but grace [unmerited, unearned or undeserved favour]. His overpayment of the late workers was his choice and nobody could argue he didn't have that right. 

What counts in the kingdom of God is not seniority or years of service, but diligence of heart as a chosen one. Through the parable, it is like Jesus said to Peter and the others: "You are privileged to be with Me, to be here early, to 'sit on twelve thrones.' But others will come into the kingdom. You must not claim a special honour above them or an exalted place over them (see Matt. 20:25-28). All humanity, no matter when they come in, are equally precious to God." Reward in the kingdom is not dispensed by virtue of time served but by grace extended to the chosen (willing; many are called but not willing). Seniority does not necessarily mean honour. Experience in years doesn't promise greater pay. Remember, it is all based on grace - not ordinary human economic calculations of so much pay for so much work.   

Jesus' story makes no economic sense, and that was His intent. He was giving us a parable about grace, which cannot be calculated like a day's wages. The employer in Jesus' story did not cheat the full-day workers. No, the full-day workers got what they were promised. Their discontent arouse from the scandalous mathematics of grace. They would not accept that their employer had the right to do what he wanted with his money when it meant paying scoundrels twelve times what they deserved. Significantly, many Christians who study this parable identify with the employees who put in a full day's work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers, and the employer's strange behaviour confuses us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the story's point: that God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God's requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell," 

Posted on September 19, 2014 .