The promise of eternal life is for all believers of all ages.
TEXT: Matthew 20:1-16
The word parable comes from the Greek “parabole” meaning a placing beside. It is therefore the pacing of one subject by another as an illustration of spiritual things by familiar earthly objects or incidents that brings the stories nearer their audience.
Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the greatest teacher this world has ever known, often spoke to the people in parables in the Gospel, Matthew 13:10-13. He made use of them to “veil” the truth from those who were not willing to acknowledge the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Those who really desired to know would not rest till they have found out the meaning, Isaiah 6:9-10.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard was prompted by Peter’s question on the reward for those of them who had forsaken all and followed Christ. The parable shows us that God in His sovereignty is debtor to no man, and that many who being last, may, with God’s blessings and grace outstrip those who were first called in knowledge, grace and spiritual usefulness. This calls for humanity and reverential fear lest we should ourselves be found hypocrites at last. God will continue to engage laborers till the very close of the age but the gift of eternal life is to all no matter the time one comes into the fold.
The objectives of this study are:
- To know what this parable implies.
- To know that the Lord keeps covenants.
- To know that God rewards His laborers.
- To appreciate vital lessons from the parable.
- WHY WAS THIS PARABLE GIVEN BY JESUS?
Parables are stories involving physical objects or circumstances used by Jesus to teach the hidden truths about God and His ways. This parable of the workers in the vineyard, shows how believers are called and engaged in the Lord’s work of the kingdom. From the parable, it is clear that there is a reward for all workers who endure to the end no matter the time of engagement. People could be opportune to start in the ministry at an early age, others could serve longer while others could be called almost at the end of their life time or age. It is clear that the end result will be eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Christ is not interested in the death of a sinner. This is the basis of engaging laborers even up to the eleventh hour when he found them idle. Christ, the righteous judge will reward every believer in line with His word, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”, Acts 16:31.
No one may be given over either because of age for being too deep in sin, for Jesus could still pick him up at the eleventh hour. Any positive responses to the call “come follow Me” will be rewarded.
- COMMENT ON WHETHER OR NOT THE PARABLE SUGGESTS EQUAL REWARDS FOR ALL CHRISTIANS. 1 CORINTHIANS 3:8-15, REVELATION 22:12
From what is revealed, all laborers did what was expected of them. Here, it is not a matter of quantity or quality. The reward is the same for same quality of work. We should recognize that we are building on the same foundation, hence the terms of eternal life, it is equal reward. Eternal life is actually the gift of God offered to all who believe. We do not work to earn this.
In terms of work that each of us, Christians, put into service, the quality matters and it is the yardstick for our rewards and crown.
However, the blessings of God are not tied to the time of being born again; rather let us be aware that believers who are yet to be saved, once saved automatically qualify for God’s blessings. God is not slack concerning His promises. The ultimate of God’s blessings is ETERNAL LIFE in Jesus Christ.
- HOW JUSTIFIED WERE THE LABORERS WHO STARTED WORK EARLY IN THE MORNING IN PROTESTING AGAINST EQUAL PAYMENT WITH OTHERS? Matthew 20:2 & 13-15
The laborers were not justified. They reasoned that they should receive more. They murmured forgetting that the agreement was to work for the whole day for one penny. An agreement was being executed. It is true others took a ride in on God’s grace especially those that came into the vineyard at about the eleventh hour. The instruction was “Go ye also into the vineyard and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” Our God is sovereign and no one can challenge that sovereignty; hence all are called to salvation.
The payment of a whole day’s wage to those who came in at the eleventh hour shows that God distributes His rewards by grace and sovereignty, and not of debt. The laborers quarreled with their master not because they had not enough but that others were equal with them. They boast of their services. There may always be this tendency to think we have received less of the tokens of God’s favor than others.
There may also be the temptation to undervalue the input of others, and to overvalue our own. It is hard for those who have suffered more than ordinary for God or have been used to do mighty works for Him, not to be elevated too much with the thought of it. Therefore, let us note that our thinking and our ways are not God’s. God is faithful and righteous.
- WHAT ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE HOUSEHOLDER PORTRAY GOD’S CHARACTER?
The Householder called laborers into the Vineyard. This is an indication of God’s desire to have us partake of the things of the kingdom. We are His workmanship. He consistently came at regular intervals to call laborers into the Vineyard. This depicts His desire for a rich harvest at the end of the age.
The Householder fulfilled His agreement to all who worked for Him to the end of the day. This is a strong confirmation of God’s faithfulness to all who endure to the end, and shows also that He is the God of grace. He is the one who pays the wages for our laborers and his judgment is righteous. All who labor for Him will receive a reward.
There is an indication that God values our service and takes good account of whatever labor we put in to bring souls into the kingdom.
- WHAT ARE THE LESSONS DERIVED FROM THIS PARABLE?
Firstly, God is calling us to Ministry. In our call, we must rely on His grace. Our response to His call brings us under his control.
Secondly, we should not put the reward first. We must not be envious of co-laborers in the field. Encouraging ourselves is healthier.
Knowing God’s sovereignty, a portion or reward given to us during the course of our work should be received with gladness and contentment.
The work of soul harvest demands our attention instead of idling away in the market place. The market place is for business, of noise and hurry where the temper lures men into sin and hires laborers to feed swine. From the market place, Christ hires us as laborers in His Vineyard, the Church, which is His planting, watering and fencing: we as laborers are called to keep and dress it for Him. As laborers, we must not be slothful, nor loiterers, but working, busy for the Lord. He promises us a reward. He will not be unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, Hebrews 6:10.
We have been hired for a day – the time of life. The work is for a day but the reward is for eternity. This should spur us on to work with diligence – for the time is short. The night comes when no man can work. We must therefore work the works of Him that has hired us while it is day, John 9:4. Heavenly inheritance is not obtained as earthly inheritances commonly are, by seniority of age, and priority of birth, but according to God’s pleasure. Many that are first shall be the last, and the last, first. Believers ought therefore to tread carefully, fearing the LORD. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls into sin. There is no room for boasting. We are what we are by the grace of God.
DAILY LIVING APPLICATION
Each parable that our Lord gave is intended to convey a picture or message of things of the kingdom of God. This parable illustrates the calling of men of different moral attainments at various times. It also shows that because of the calling at different times no one can lay more claim than the others, for He, God Is the God of all. We should endeavor to be one of the faithful laborers that God is using to fulfill His plan for mankind without expecting a reward of praise from men. We should also put off regret for not coming in earlier. Rather we should work in faith for the kingdom reward.
1 Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”