Sunday, August 07, 2011

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 market place; 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.''

As an illustration of the previous subject of being compensated by Jesus for our work in the kingdom, Jesus tells an interesting story--"the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard." Most pointedly Jesus is elaborating on the statement that many who are last will be first and the first last.

NOTE what the landowner does. He hires laborers to work for a day for a denarius. He hires laborers to work for him at around noon. He hires laborers to work for him at 3:00 pm. He hires laborers to work for him at 5:00 pm for only an hour.

THEN, the landowner paid them all a denarius. Those who worked an entire day were paid the same as those who worked one hour.

The symbolism appears to be straightforward-the householder or owner should be taken either as God the Father or Jesus (there is no real difference in meaning whichever is understood), the laborers are those who are called to become part of the Kingdom of Heaven (as opposed to being identified as disciples-they become disciples when they agree to work in the vineyard), the wages are eternal life or 'salvation' which has already been shown to be the subject of the one sentence warning of Matthew 19:30 and the vineyard is the world or Kingdom of Heaven (where Matthew 13:38 shows that Jesus taught that the entire world is God's Kingdom).

The overall thrust is that God calls laborers to work according to His own will and purpose and that He will reward them as He sees fit--a direct comment on Peter's question about what sort of reward they should expect for leaving everything and following after Jesus (Matthew 19:27). This parable seems to cut two ways: FIRST-Jesus will bring in outcasts and worse into the kingdom--those who have had little prior experience in good behavior. SECOND-Jesus is also speaking to the issue of those who have been with Him from the beginning, thinking that they are owed a bit more than the rest.

He's God and you are not!