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"The Laborers In The Vineyard"

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"The Laborers In The Vineyard" Empty "The Laborers In The Vineyard"

Post  Admin on Tue 08 Mar 2011, 1:23 pm

As we know, "an unforgiving spirit" has no place in the hearts of
those who would make up the kingdom of heaven.

"The Laborers In The Vineyard" (Matthew 20:1-16)
(A Parable of Jesus)


As we know, "an unforgiving spirit" has no place in the hearts of
those who would make up the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:21-35)
This parable identifies an attitude of heart that has no place in
the kingdom or in the hearts of those who profess to be Christians.

This parable is known as "The Laborers In The Vineyard" and is found
in Matthew 20:1-16.
The meaning of this parable has challenged many expositors, and
explanations offered have been varied.


In order to grasp a full meaning of this parable, we must first
check out the setting, the timeframe, and lifestyle of the day.
We call this: The Setting.

A. THE SETTING (Matthew 19:16-22)

We begin with the conversation with the rich young ruler who came to
Jesus by night to talk with Him. (Matthew 19:16-22)
It was the custom of that day that when someone spoke publicly,
crowds would gather. Sometimes when there was a crowd, it was
difficult to raise a question if one had one.

1. Jesus had been approached by this man with a question
concerning eternal life.
2. In the course of their conversation, Jesus challenged
the young man to give up all and follow Him
3. The man went away sorrowful, unable to accept the


1. Jesus used this opportunity to teach how difficult it
is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
2. This causes the disciples to wonder who then could be
3. Jesus' response is that with God all things are


1. Unlike the rich young man, Peter and the other
disciples had accepted the challenge to give up all and follow
Jesus - Matthew 4:18-22
2. So he asks: "Therefore what shall we have?"
3. It appears that Peter is wanting to know...

a. If the rich can be saved (though barely, and
with the help of God).
b. What more will those receive, who have given up
all to follow Christ?
4. Peter's question could be viewed as coming from a
commercial or mercenary spirit...

a. i.e., having some sort of personal profit as a
chief aim.
b. i.e., motivated solely by a desire for personal
5. Peter's motive may have been pure, in which case Jesus'
complete answer may have been designed to be a "pre-emptive
strike" against any improper motives.

D. THE REPLY GIVEN BY JESUS - Matthew 19:28-30

1. First, an assurance

a. Specifically, to the apostles - Matthew 19:28

In the "regeneration" , they will be judging the twelve tribes of

2. This promise could refer either to:
a. Their role as apostles in the gospel age
following Pentecost - Matthew 16:19
b. A special role following the return of Christ
when He comes to judge the world - Matthew 25:31
c. Generally, to all disciples - Matthew 19:29
3. In the age to come, "everlasting life" - Mark 10:29-30
4. Those who give up all will receive more than
enough in return.
5. But then, a warning - Matthew 19:30
a. "But many who are first will be last, and the last
b. A rather cryptic warning, one repeated again in
Matthew 20:16

[Since this warning both precedes and follows the parable we are
studying, it is evident that the parable was told to explain the
warning! And since the warning was first given in response to
Peter's question, any explanation of the parable should be based
upon the setting that preceded its telling.

With this in mind, let's proceed to consider...]


As you search the scriptures and read, especially the first 4 books,
or the gospels as they are called, you will notice that Jesus often
spoken in parables, gave examples of what He was trying to get
across to people. Whether he was sparked by a situation He saw
firsthand, for example, perhaps he saw His mother looking for a lost
coin, which sparked the parable of the lost coin, or He just created
the parable, we don't know. In any event, Jesus did often speak in


1. Early in the morning, a landowner hires laborers to work
for an agreed upon wage - Matthew 20:1-2
2. Later, at different hours of the day, he finds more and
hires them also, for a fair but unspecified wage - Matthew 20:3-7
3. At the end of the day, they are all paid equally, which
irritates those who had worked all day - Matthew 20:8-12
4. The landowner responds to the complainers.
a. I treated you fairly, for you received according to
our agreement - Matthew 20:13-14a
b. I wish to pay the others the same - Matthew 20:14b
Do I have not the right He asked them - Matthew 20:15a
Then He asked them if they were envious? - Matthew 20:15b
5. Jesus concludes by repeating the warning - Matthew 20:16
(some manuscripts add another warning: "For many are called, but few


1. Many and varied have been the interpretations; for
a. The various bands of workers are the O.T. saints;
those called at the eleventh hour are the apostles
b. The workers first called are the Jews, those called
last are the Gentiles.
c. The parable represents the whole gospel age up to
Christ's return, and the workers are groups saved at various
d. It refers to different periods of a person's life in
which he may respond to the Lord: some responding early,
others late in life.

2. Since this parable is in response to Peter's question, I
a. That the first workers represent the apostles and
others like them.

Who are called by Christ through the gospel early in life.

And who therefore may labor long and hard in the
"vineyard" (i.e., the kingdom of God)
b. The other workers represent those who are called by
Christ via the gospel at various times.

Some of whom are called late in life and do not have opportunity to
do as much for the Lord/
3. In light of this interpretation, the main points of the
parable is:

a. What everyone receives will be more than "fair" ("Did
you not agree with me...?")
b. No one has the right to question the "generosity" of the
Lord ("Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my
own things?")
c. Those who may serve long and hard should not
be "envious" if others receive the same reward ("Is your eye evil
because I am good?")
d. Therefore no one should serve the Lord with a commercial
or mercenary spirit!

The very danger Peter was close to falling into by the question he
raised! A danger to which we are all susceptible!

Perhaps I should stress that this parable is NOT saying that
those who purposely put off obeying Christ until the last
moment can be saved.

If that were the point, the parable would have been worded

Notice that those who responded at the late hour of the day had not
been working "Because no one hired us" - Matthew 20:7

They accepted the offer as soon as they heard it, though late in the
day. They were not people who turned down many opportunities
to accept the offer to labor in the vineyard, only to accept at the
last hour!

Whether one can be saved at the last moment after lifelong
rejection of the gospel is another question. But since the thief on
the cross was told by Jesus that "this day thou shalt be with me in
paradise" it is very possible.

However, notice what is said of those who remain in a
condition of rejecting the gospel:
They judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life. Acts 13:46
They are storing up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath.
Romans 2:4-11


It is understood that the proper application of this
parable is this:

When we are called by the gospel to obey Christ, we should
respond at once. For some, we may hear the invitation early in life.
Others may not come to know of the gospel until late in life.

As laborers in the vineyard (i.e., the kingdom), we should
work diligently in whatever time we may have left.

We may be blessed to offer a full life of service to the
Lord or we may only have a short time We should do whatever we can
without a commercial or mercenary spirit (e.g., "Do I get more
because I gave more?")

With this parable, we learn more about those in the kingdom of

Just as the parable of "The Unmerciful Servant" teaches us
there is no place in the kingdom of heaven for "an unforgiving


The parable of "The Laborers In The Vineyard" teaches us
there is no room in the kingdom of heaven for those with either "a
mercenary spirit" or "an envious spirit"!

What is our attitude toward our service to Christ?

Is it one of gratitude?
Is it one of commercialism?


Why not let the gracious spirit of the "landowner" revealed in
this parable encourage you to accept the grace of God in humble
obedience to His gospel?

Why not live out the rest of your life in grateful service to

Let this parable minister and encourage you.
Humble yourselves and do the work you are called to do and don't
think about the reward that awaits.
Copyright©2005 Theresa Q. Pavone,A.TH, B.TH
All rights reserved.
Do not use without permission.
Copyright policy in effect.

Phillippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." KJV


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