My Least Favorite Parable

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In Matthew 20:1-16 we find the following parable from Jesus. 

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

5 “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 ” ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

7 “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 When I first read this years ago my immediate thought was “that’s not fair.”  There is no way the worker who worked one hour should receive the same as the worker who worked the full day.    But over the years this parable has grown on me.  I think Jesus tells us this story to make several points. 

One, the most important point is that God is generous.  This is the main point.  It reminds us of this basic characteristic about God.  The heart of the gospel proves this “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son.” 

Two, do we want to approach God asking for what we deserve or do want to accept from Him what he is willing to graciously give?  When we study the Scripture and understand that what we deserve as sinners and rebels is the darkness and suffering of hell throwing ourselves on the generosity of God is much easier.  I hope we will always remember that salvation is a precious gift from God not something we earn.  

I hope you too will mine the riches of this troubling parable and come to love it as much as I do.

Under His Mercy,

Derek Dickinson

Journey Christian Church

Fairbanks, Alaska




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