Friday, March 1, 2019

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

An analysis of the parable of the workers in the vineyard from Matthew 20:1-16.  What does "the first shall be last and the last shall be first mean"?

  • Matthew 20:1-16
  • Deuteronomy 24:14 - 15
  • Matthew 19:23-26
  • Matthew 19:27-30
  • Matthew 11:11
  • Review: The Kingdom of God
  • Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
  • Historical / Biblical Context
  • Analysis of the Parable
  • Salvation
  • Last Shall Be First
  • Your Motive for Serving
  • Fairness / Comparison
  • Contract vs Faith
  • Is God fair and just?
  • Should we expect a reward for serving God?
  • Do you think God owes you something for your service?
  • Do you think God rewards other people differently than how he rewards you?
  • What did Jesus mean when He said the first will be last and the last will be first?

Review: The Kingdom of God

Different than What the Jews Expected

The Jews expected the Messiah to be a human who would take dominion from the Romans
  • The kingdom is spiritual and not geopolitical
What does it mean to enter the Kingdom?
  • “Kingdom” means “reign” or “rule”
  • Kingdom of God means God’s reign over the earth and the hearts of men
  • Allowing Jesus to be Lord over every part of your life

What We Know About the Kingdom of God

  • Already, but not yet…
  • The Kingdom of God is here but not yet fully accessible by us
  • It will be fully accessible after the end of the age
  • The plan for God’s future Kingdom is the same as what He intended with Adam and Eve
  • To have His will implemented upon the earth through mankind

About Parables

parable is a short story that illustrates one or more lessons or principles
  • A parable is a type of analogy
  • A parable has a surface story and a deeper meaning
  • A simple story helps to explain a more complex or hidden story  
So far, we’ve covered 10 parables about the Kingdom of God

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 "When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace;
4 and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went.
5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?'
7 "They *said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He *said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.'
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.'
9 "When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
10 "When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.
11 "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'
13 "But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?'
16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last."
  • Which workers were paid fairly?
  • Who was Jesus teaching a lesson to?

Historical / Biblical Context

Israel’s day starts at 6 AM
  • First hour is 6am
  • The third hour is 9 AM
  • They worked from 6am to 6pm
  • 5:00 is the 11th hour

A denarius was worth
  • A days wage in Caesar's army
  • A place to stay
  • Two cups of wine
  • A loaf of bread
Day workers are vulnerable because they are dependent on the wage that they get that day to feed their families
Deuteronomy 24:14 - 15
  14“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15“You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you.

The Parable is a Response to Peter

This followed the story of the rich ruler
  • The ruler asked what he needed to do to enter the Kingdom
  • Jesus listed some commandments
  • He said he follows them
  • Jesus tells him to sell all he owns and give it to the poor
  • He leaves
Matthew 19:23-26
  23And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Why were the disciples astonished at Jesus statement about it being hard for rich people to get to Heaven?
  • They weren’t rich
  • Because Jews thought that wealth was an indication of favor from God
  • They thought rich people were more likely to get into Heaven than poor people
  • They assumed that if rich people couldn’t get into Heaven then they definitely couldn’t
Jesus clarifies that it’s not based on your actions or status in life it’s dependant on God
  • You can’t earn it
  • It’s impossible without God
  • It takes grace
Matthew 19:27-30
27Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 28And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
  • Jesus validates the disciples that they can enter
  • He then gives a warning to the disciples
  • Notice too that not all who are first will be last (“many”)
Jesus makes a statement here and concludes with “the first shall be last”
  • The parable is emphasizing the point He just made
  • He then concludes the parable with “the first shall be last”
This is a response to Peter’s statement
  • Peter implied an expectation of a greater reward because they gave up so much
Then after this Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard

Analysis of the Parable

The landowner goes into the marketplace 5 times
  • Early in the morning
  • Third hour
  • Six-hour
  • The ninth hour
  • The 11th hour

The Landowner

The landowner is God
There’s a sense of urgency by the landowner
Why did the land owner keep going back to the market?
  • Perhaps it was the rainy season and the crop would get ruined
  • Perhaps it was the day before the Sabbath
  • Perhaps the grapes were about to be over ripe
  • Perhaps he was just generous
He was in the marketplace all day looking for workers
  • He didn’t spend his life in the vineyard among the workers
  • He didn’t look for workers in the vineyard
Do you think the landowner needed more workers?

The Laborers

modern day example: day laborers standing outside Home Depot
Everyone who was willing to work was given work
The workers and the marketplace were desperate for work
  • Their families were dependent on them finding work
The laborers are believers

The First Group

The first group is the only group who he had a contract with
  • The first people worked in the heat of the day
  • The first group proved they could work all day
The first group is working towards their agreement
  • The rest are working in faith
  • The rest of them had grace
Who were the early workers?
  • Believers who accepted Christ early in life vs the Thief on the cross
  • Believers who came to Christ early in history
  • Those who live a righteous life
  • Those who serve the church
The parable is a response to Peter’s entitled question…
  • Peter was reminding Christ that they were first and they sacrificed much
The early workers are:
  1. Those who became Christians earlier than others
  2. Those who sacrifice to serve Christ

The Last Group

Why weren’t the last group hired earlier?
  • Maybe they got there later
  • They slept in
  • Maybe they were sick
  • Maybe they had been there all day
  • Maybe they were less capable (e.g. crippled)
Jesus only negotiated a price with the first workers
The last group only did an hours work

The Foreman

Who was watching the vineyard while the landowner was away?
  • The foreman
Matthew 20:8
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.'
Who is the foreman?
  • Unclear
  • Holy Spirit?  Angels?

The Payment

You have to be in the vineyard in the end to get paid
Imagine how happy the last people would have been
  1. God is generous
  2. God is unpredictable
What was going through the minds of those who were paid first?
  • They thought they’d get more
  • First workers may have expected a weeks pay
Why did He pay the last people first?
  • So the earlier groups would see the payment??

Who is Coming into the Kingdom at the 11th Hour?

The 11th hour could be
  • Late in your life
  • The last days

The Point of the Parable

The parable is not about
  • Labor law
  • Business Management Techniques
  • Socialism
Some will say this parable is about receiving salvation
  • That it doesn’t matter how late you decide to believe
Some will say that this parable is about everyone is equal in heaven
  • It doesn’t matter how much work you did
This parable is about trusting God to decide what’s fair
  • Just be faithful to what we are called to do.
  • Trust God and to do whatever he is going to do.
The landowner didn’t ask who worked hard and who didn’t
  • The work wasn’t as important to the landowners as paying the people
  • He was concerned that they were standing out all day and weren’t going to get paid
The calling and the choosing are based on God’s grace
God is fair to everyone but he is more generous at times to some than others


  • Choosing Christ early in life verses late
Story: I’ll be like the thief on the cross
  • Which one?
Can a person be a sinner their entire life and then repent before their deathbed and be saved?
Why not live a life of sin?
  • Why are you asking that in the first place?
  • We talked about entering the Kingdom now
  • Assumes we can control the terms of our salvation
This parable isn’t about working in the Kingdom to earn your reward
  • It’s about the grace of God
The wages of sin is death
  • The gift of God is eternal life

Last shall be first

The last being first is a major theme that is reiterated 3 times
“The last shall be first”
  • Matthew 19:30
  • The workers got paid last first
  • The parable ends with “the first shall be last and last shall be first”
Peter had asked would they get more because they were first
  • The parable was in response to that
Matthew 19:30
30“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
  • Not all who are first will be last


  • You don’t need to work to get to Heaven
  • Getting to Heaven is not based on your financial status
  • There won’t be an automatic reversal of status when we get to Heaven
  • There is no heavenly law that the poor and oppressed must rule over the rich and powerful.
  • The rich aren’t always last in heaven, and the poor aren’t always first.
  • Earthly rank will not automatically translate into an inverse heavenly rank.
  • Whether you come early or late in life we all get the same reward
  • It’s not teaching that there will be a rapture

Why Would The Disciples Be Rewarded

  • They would be greatly rewarded in heaven for what they had given up on earth
  • And their faith in Jesus
  • He was contrasting their sacrifice with the rich young ruler’s lack thereof
  • The disciples are an example of those who may be first
  • Not because they were poor
  • Because they left all they had to follow Jesus
  •  The rich young ruler is an example of those who may be last
  • Not because he was rich
  • Because he was unwilling to put Jesus first

Peter’s Pride

But the parable also seems to be in response to an attitude Peter had
Peter’s statement that he gave up everything can be seen as boastful
  • The rich young ruler was proud of his money
  • Peter was proud of his works
You can be proud of your earthly status
You can also be proud of your religious status

Eternal Life

In Matthew 20 The early laborers thought  their own labor was worthy of a denarius but not the later workers.
  • They thought they were entitled to more than the later workers
  • Jesus ends the parable stating “The last will be first, and the first last”
The most obvious interpretation, based on the content of the parable, is that all believers, no matter how long or how hard they work during this lifetime, will receive the same basic reward: eternal life.
Yes the bible also teaches that there are different rewards in heaven for different services
  • We do store up treasures in heaven
But the ultimate reward of salvation will be given on the basis of God’s grace.
There are several ways in which “the first will be last and the last first” holds true.
  • The thief on the cross got to Heaven before any of the disciples
  • Judas Iscariot was one of the original 12 disciples
  • Paul was the last of the apostles yet he wrote most of the New Testament
  • The Jews worked hard to follow all of God’s laws yet they didn’t accept Jesus
  • Gentiles have equal access to the kingdom of heaven, even though they have not served God as long as the Jews

Jesus is teaching us that there will be many surprises in heaven.
  • Heaven’s value system is different than earth’s value system.
  • Those who are esteemed and respected in this world may be lower  in the Kingdom
  • Those who are looked down upon by society may be esteemed by God
  • Those who are esteemed by the church may not be highest ranked in Heaven
Jesus already told us that the least in the Kingdom is greater than everyone in the Old Testament
Matthew 11:11
11“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
  • Most Christians would have a hard time consider themselves greater than Moses
Those who are first in their own eyes might be last in the kingdom
  • Some who think they are  last will be first
  • And some who think they are first will be last

Your Motive for Serving

  • The parable challenges our motive for serving
  • Some Christians think the God owes them something or that they deserve something.
It is not sinful to desire rewards in heaven.
  • Our motivation should not be our reward it should be love and responsibility
Are you serving the Lord thinking you’ll get what you have earned?
Are you hoping for grace?
Jesus detected in Peter a wrong motive for serving
Are we serving to get something out of it?
When we limit God with our own dreams and goals is when we get frustrated
Grace is a free gift that we don’t deserve
Example: 2 people leaping across the Grand Canyon
  • 9 miles
  • 12 feet vs 4 feet
  • In our minds we have narrowed the width to the canyon
We’re happy to receive the grace
  • How much  grace do we show to others
  • Someone with a different religion than yours?
  • Someone with a different view of the bible than you?
  • How do we feel seeing others get more grace than us
When we serve...
  • Should we expect less than what we deserve?
  • Should we expect exactly what we deserve?
  • Should we expect more than what we deserve?
The question is why are you serving.
Do you serve the Lord because you love him or because you are looking for some type of ReWard?

Projecting Your Motives

The accusation of the land owner paying unfair wages is not really a revelation about the character of the land owner; it is a revelation about the character of the worker.
We need to be careful not to project our motives onto someone else
Example: sniffing
  • Your accusations expose your own heart
  • Expose your own focus
Perhaps the landowner cared as much about the laborers as he did his own business
  • He cared about them all equally

Fairness / Comparison

  • The parable challenges our concept of fairness
In America we live in a merit based society so it is our nature to always question whether something is fair
  • Whether someone got what they deserved
  • We are a capitalist society

Your Word is Your Bond

Honor Your Contracts
  • Job
  • Christianity
  • Marriage
Story: co-worker refusing offer because of what I got
  • Withdrew offer - freeze
  • He wanted something different than what they were offering
  • You gotta take the job they’re offering (or be willing to walk away)
Example: people striking for what they agreed
This parable betrays our sense of fairness
  • Is your word your bond?
  • What’s more important- fairness or keeping your word
Example: I’ll pay you back tomorrow
  • Then you drive up in a nice car
  • Then you win the lottery

God’s Wages

We think God owes us because of what we do
  • God operates on grace
  • God is not going to distribute the way we think we will
The owner’s point of view is that there is plenty of work to do so why aren’t you working
  • There is plenty of work to do for the kingdom
You don’t have to worry about getting less than you deserve
Some want to rationalize that the later workers worked harder


It’s part of our fallen nature to be jealous and people get things
  • Many people don’t care for other people
Matthew 20:15
15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?'
  • Evil eye is an idiom for jealousy
Never envy people that don’t know God
He paid them according what was fair but not based on what they earned
The generosity wasn’t equal
The point of the story is that God dispenses gifts not salary
We look at our Christian life to be fair
  • We think everyone should get the same amount of grace
We don’t say this person needs a sprinkle of Jesus’
  • But he needs to bath in it
We get jealous when
  • A sinner gets married
  • A new choir member gets to sing a solo
  • People get complete healing
  • People get their sins taken away
  • New believers/members get positions in the church

Children vs Slaves

True Christians are not gods employee we are His children
Example: My parents were always fair to me and my brother
God is like a grandparent
~orphan syndrome
  • How you were raised
  • You had to earn your reward
  • Did you have to earn your allowance
  • Think that there’s less available for me
Example: me and my brother always treated equal
  • I don’t feel bad when others succeed
Why are we assuming we worked for 12 hours?
  • Do we really want fairness?
  • At what age did you completely surrender to Christ?
  • Most of us don’t know yet…
The possibility of greatness makes people start comparing themselves to others. When the apostles found out they would be in the kingdom then they started to worry about their status.
In this world greatness is on a vertical scale. There is a hierarchy. And the kingdom of God there is only one person who is great.

Contract vs Faith

  • Some people came to God with the contract
The first people have a contract with God but the last people are just going on faith
The last people are paid first and then get a full days wage
The parable emphasizes a right attitude and service
The parable shows two types of people
  1. Those who want a contract and want to know what they’re getting for their service
  2. Those who are serving out of faith or desperation
The parable symbolize believers after they have come to salvation
The first group of laborers negotiated a contract
  • Perhaps this is a picture of the Jews who were bound by the law in line
  • And perhaps the other workers are the Gentiles
In the parable there were two types of agreements made
  1. One was based on an agreement with the owner
  2. The other was based on a faith in the character of the landowner
There are two types of people in the parable
  1. Those who are counting on payment
  2. Those who are counting on grace
Are you willing to work for what God is willing to give you?
There are some people that don’t
  • Trust God‘s character
  • Trust God‘s judgment
  • Trust God‘s integrity
What will you get for following Jesus?
  • If you follow Jesus you will get exactly what you deserve
  • If you don’t follow Jesus you will get exactly what you deserve
  • Some people will get more than they deserve
The parable exposes our unhappiness when we think God is dealing with other people differently then he is dealing with us.
Do you think God rewards other people differently than how he rewards you?
Do you want to be an hourly worker or a salaried worker?
Is it fair that some people give millions from winning the lottery while people who don’t play the lottery never win?
The statement implies that everyone will not be equal in heaven. Otherwise there would be no first or last in heaven.
What contract did you agree to with the Lord?
  • Jesus if you rescue me if you save me this is what I agreed to do


Important points
  1. God rewards believers according to His grace
  2. We haven’t truly understood the gospel until we understand that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone
  3. If we think we can get to Heaven on our own then we’ve entirely missed the point
This parable is about
  • The motivation of our hearts while serving
  • Salvation
  • Grace
No one will receive Christ unless God does a work in our heart
  • We were dead in our sins
If God is required to give His grace to everyone then it is not grace
It is possible to do the fathers work yet not do His will from the heart
What Jesus may be telling us is that the reward we get in heaven may be different than what we consider a reward here on earth.
Deeds of merit as we thought them he will show us where of sin
Little acts we had forgotten he will show us were for him
Presenter: Michael Leadon


Matthew 20:1-16, "Grace is Better Than a Contract"
The Generous Landowner | Matthew 20:1-16 - Andrew Calderon
Doug Batchelor - Help Wanted-Workers in the Vineyard
"Is God Fair?... Parable of Workers in the Vineyard" - Pastor Doug Batchelor
Last Shall be First
Matthew 20:1-16, The King’s Parable Of Workers In The Vineyard
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)


Biblical / Historical Context

Isaiah 5:1-6
1Let me sing now for my well-beloved
         A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
         My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2He dug it all around, removed its stones,
         And planted it with the choicest vine.
         And He built a tower in the middle of it
         And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
         Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
         But it produced only worthless ones.
3“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
         Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
         Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
         I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
         I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6“I will lay it waste;
         It will not be pruned or hoed,
         But briars and thorns will come up.
         I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
Leviticus 19:13
13 'You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.
The widow's mite was a fraction of a fraction of a denarius


90 million new people every year
16 million Christians added per year

The Desire for Greatness (podcast)

The possibility of greatness makes people start comparing themselves to others. When the apostles found out they would be in the kingdom then they started to worry about their status.
In this world greatness is on a vertical scale. There is a hierarchy. And the kingdom of God there is only one person who is great.
If you want to ask a question like who is the greatest thing you are excluding yourself because the rules are different.
Some people in the choir  because they enjoy singing other people sing as a means to greatness.
The medium size of a church in the USA is 75 people. We don’t want having a big church to be the means of our happiness. Building the kingdom isn’t our project. We just need to enter the kingdom.
How are you how often is our talk about kingdom really a cover for our desire to be great?
If there is a ministry that is growing bigger than yours do you celebrate it as much as she was celebrating your own ministry? Because if you are celebrating the kingdom you would.
In God‘s kingdom there are no insignificant people. That is why blessed are those who are lonely on this earth because they will not have that experience in heaven.
Thomas merchant and American Catholic monk
Our Christian destiny is in fact a great one. But we cannot achieve greatness until we lose our whole process of becoming great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory.
What we think is greatness is just an idea in our heads.

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