For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.Matthew 20:1-5
Jesus presents a profound parable in the 20th chapter of St. Matthew that should make every sanctified believer reassess their spiritual walk and kingdom work in the light of their promised reward. No matter how long we have been saved or the accomplishments realized, the Master only promised eternal life.
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.Matthew 20:6-9
Christ tells of a householder going out early in the morning to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. After a wage of a penny a day had been agreed upon, the laborers began their work day. Going out again at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00 p.m., seeing others idle, hired additional workers at the same salary. Appalled as he ventured out at 5:00 p.m. and finding some more potential workers yet idle asked the question, “why stand ye here all the day idle?”. Responding that no man hired them, they were sent to the vineyard and would be paid what was right.
As provided in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) the workers, being poor, were given their wages at the end of the day. Those that were hired first began to murmur and complain against the good man of the house wanting more money because they had “borne the heat of the day” and those that worked only one hour should not be given the same wage as they were. The householder immediately reminded the disgruntled workers of their agreement stating he had not betrayed them, and he was within his right to do as he pleased with that which belonged to him (St. Matthew 20:1-15).As provided in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) the workers, being poor, were given their wages at the end of the day. Those that were hired first began to murmur and complain against the good man of the house wanting more money because they had “borne the heat of the day” and those that worked only one hour should not be given the same wage as they were. The householder immediately reminded the disgruntled workers of their agreement stating he had not betrayed them, and he was within his right to do as he pleased with that which belonged to him (St. Matthew 20:1-15).
The interpretation of the Laborers and the Vineyard is apparent. Christ is indeed the householder making a constant appeal “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (St. Matthew 11:28-29). Everyone that will hear His voice (Revelation 3:20) He places in His kingdom to work while it is day (St. John 9:4). Christ says to all, regardless when salvation was accepted, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10c). The wage is the same no matter how long the tenure, what the prevailing circumstances are, or when others join the race.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.Matthew 20:10-16
There are some important lessons that every sanctified believer must learn from the murmuring and complaining laborers. It is not the length of our service, but its quality. Work that is accepted by God is determined, not by duration, but by the spirit in which it is performed (Colossians 3:23-24). We must be persuaded that whatever is done for Christ and in His kingdom is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Our labor is subject to and directed by God’s equity, justice, grace, and sovereignty (Psalm 115:1).
Jesus leaves a final word of caution to all kingdom workers expecting a just reward. “So the last shall be first and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (St. Matthew 20:16). The clarion call is made beckoning many. Many start faithfully working in God’s kingdom. We must complete the task successfully and our labor is in vain if we don’t hear “well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (St. Matthew 25:21). Everyone, living holy and laboring in the kingdom of God is promised “just a penny” (Revelation 22:12).