"Not fair!" The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard


“Not fair!” my oldest child told me as he reminded me of all the things he was not allowed to do when he was younger that now his younger brother gets to do. He went on to say “I couldn’t watch these shows…, and I had to clean my room and the TV room!” Though my son had every right to share his opinion and he might even have merit in his points in the larger picture of the family. We all have to do our part and at times it may seem like others do more than we do, but it’s all right because as a family we all serve one another. Though we all have different roles and responsibilities and levels of maturity we serve one another to better the family.

In the “Parable of the Workers of the Vineyard” we find Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. He opens the parable with “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner”. What amazed the listener at that time was Jesus understood the law and its true purpose; he also practiced it in his daily life. Jesus taught with conviction and authority. The listener hearing the opening of this parable tuned in to hear Jesus teaching on the kingdom. This landowner had a field to harvest. The land owner sought day labors in the marketplace and committed to pay them a denarius for the day. The harvest demand was so great that the landowner went out to the marketplace 4 more times to recruit day labors. The landowner directs the foreman to pay the workers their day’s earnings. The foreman was to pay those hired last first, and then those who were hired first last. All the day laborers received the same wage, causing those who had worked the majority of the day to complain. This was a common business practice in the Middle East to bargain over wage. The landowner addresses their complaint, he said to them “didn’t you agree to work a day for a denarius?” He then reminded them that it was his right and prerogative to do what he wanted with his money.

This parable was spoken to shed light on who could enter the Kingdom of God. A critical point that can be derived from the text is that acceptance into the Kingdom has nothing to do with accomplished tasks and merit, but rather on God’s grace and faith. In the early church there would have been contention between the Jewish believer and the Gentile. The message was simple that God’s Kingdom doesn’t play favorites and that a person’s status on earth will not affect ones position in the Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is His to rule and reign; it is He who knows the thought and the attitude of the heart and will judge and reward those of His Kingdom. The message is the same today, though we might still find groups within Christendom that would try to elevate themselves over other’s. The message is for all and when it is all said and done. It is God that will determine the faithfulness of our service. It was the not the apostles responsibility to rule and reign over others, but to serve in God’s Kingdom. The same is true today we are to serve and lead in God’s Kingdom, each one doing his/her part as a unit.

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