1 “Because the kingdom from the sky is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
2 And after he had agreed together with the workers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 But when he went out about the third hour he saw others standing around doing nothing in the marketplace,
4 so he told them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will pay you whatever is right.’
5 So they went. When he went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you standing around here doing nothing all day?’
7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into my vineyard too.’
8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And when they received it they complained to the master of the house,
12 They said, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have done the hard work all day in the scorching heat.’
13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me to work for a denarius?
14 Take what belongs to you and go. I am choosing to give to this last worker the same that I give to you.
15 Am I not permitted to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you resent my generosity?’
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
inequality, equality and kingdom investment
The prophets, John the Baptizer, and Jesus had taught that a kingdom was going to come down from the sky. Believers in that kingdom had the opportunity to invest in that coming kingdom by learning and obeying the commands of Christ. This opportunity spans the ages from the point in Old Testament times when that kingdom was merely hinted at in biblical history and the Mosaic law, to the point in the distant future, when the harvest is complete, and Christ comes again. There are two principles concerning that kingdom investment that Jesus explains by means of this parable:
1. The principle of inequality is that not everyone will have equal access to the kingdom, or equal understanding of it. In fact, many people and cultures who are first to learn of this coming kingdom will be among the last to embrace it, and benefit from it. The first century Jews among whom Jesus walked thought that they were God’s privileged elite. But – as a whole — they would reject that kingdom, making them last instead of first.
2. The principle of equality, ironically, is also taught here. The wages at the harvest in the parable were distributed equally, regardless of how long the workers worked in the vineyard. From the workers’ viewpoint, this seemed unfair. But from the master’s viewpoint, it was all a matter of grace. He chose to employ the workers, and he chose to give them the same wages. In the same way, the eternal life that God promises to give citizens of his coming kingdom will be shared equally among all the recipients of his grace.
LORD, You are the master of the harvest. We refuse to compare ourselves with others who have served you. We only thank you that all of us who have served you at all times will gain the great reward of entrance into your kingdom and eternal life. Thank you for your grace.