Parables were a vital part of Christ’s ministry while he was on the earth. It made the lessons he was teaching come to life and made those lessons applicable to everyday life. This time, we are going to look at one particular parable that compares a vineyard to the kingdom of heaven. We will also answer questions such as, ‘What can we learn from this parable?’ and ‘How does it apply to us?’ We are going to dig deeper into this parable and find out other meanings that it could hold. So let us begin the study of the Workers in the Vineyard.
This parable is told only in Matthew 20:1-16. Here is the parable:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning 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 noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon 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 five in the afternoon 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 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, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one 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.”
When most people read this parable, they think of the most common explanation of this parable, and by no means is it wrong. The simple explanation is that those who are saved first won’t receive a better reward than those who were saved later on in life. Each will receive the same reward in full. That explanation is complete and correct. However, what if we look at it from a different perspective? What if we look at it from just a worker in the vineyard perspective? Let’s say that we are the workers in the vineyard, and the vineyard is God’s kingdom. According to the parable, we are working in and for God’s kingdom (God being the land owner). So what is this ‘work’ that we are supposed to be doing? Well, we cannot list absolutely everything there is to do, but we can look at a few broad ideas to gain a better understanding of this critical subject.
Before we do that, we must understand that everyone can be a worker for the Lord. Your age, height, or education does not matter when God’s work calls. Anyone and everyone can do the Lord’s work. Look at Jeremiah as an example. In Jeremiah 1:6 it says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said. “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”” Jeremiah tells the Lord that he is too young to be a ‘prophet to the nations’.But the Lord knew that he would be with Jeremiah and that Jeremiah could complete the tasks that lie ahead. So, do not think that you are not worthy to work for God because you are.
Now let’s discuss what work we can do for God. One of the most important things we can do is do what the disciples did. Make, baptize, and teach disciples. In Matthew 28:18-20 it reads, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” If we can bring people closer to God, then we have completed work for the Lord. Some people, when they think of the Great Commission, think that their whole life has to follow the disciples’ lives exactly. Walking around the earth, teaching and preaching the Word of God to every nation. But that’s simply not true, and it’s an exaggeration of the command. God does not have the same plans for everyone. He uses different people in different ways.
We can all have a different occupation, but all our work should be for the Lord. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.“ Paul says that no matter what we do, we must always put our full heart into everything, as working for the Lord. Just above these verses in verse 17, it states, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Whether we are talking or doing something, we must do everything for our Lord Jesus.
Paul tells Titus in Titus 2:7 to “set an example by doing what is good.” We can do the Lord’s work by being a Christian. It’s that simple. Just by being an example we can accomplish the Lord’s work. By being an example, we can influence someone to turn towards God. We can do the Lord’s work without even realizing it.
We can also do God’s work if we serve him. How do we serve Him? By keeping his commands. 1 John 5:3 says this, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” We serve God by keeping his commands. Let’s refocus for just a moment on the parable were discussing. Wouldn’t the workers do everything they could to please the landowner? Of course, they would. They would serve the landowner to receive the denarius, and that denarius is like the crown of righteousness Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 4:8. We will receive that crown of righteousness once this life is over, just as the workers did after they finished a day’s work in the vineyard.
As we come to a close, remember one thing. God’s kingdom is like a vineyard and there is always work to be done. No matter what kind of work we do, we can always do it for God, to help further His kingdom.