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.
Jesus' favorite method of teaching was by parable. A parable is an account of something that may or may not have actually happened but nonetheless is designed to teach a truth. One of our Lord's most difficult parables is the parable of the kingdom that is likened to a householder.
In summary, the parable is this: Early in the morning one day a householder went out to hire laborers for a vineyard (Matthew 20:1). He agreed to pay the laborers a penny for the day, which were evidently the regular wages for the ordinary laborer. About the third hour the man returned to town and hired others to work in his vineyard, promising to pay them what was fair. At the sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours he returned to find others standing idle and likewise hired them with the same promise of payment.
At the end of the day the householder called his laborers together and had the steward of the house pay them, beginning with the last hired. Each was paid the same, but when those who were hired early in the morning received just a penny, they murmured that it was unfair to pay them a penny when those who had worked only an hour were also paid a penny. The householder replied that he had been just with the day-long workers, as he had been with the hour-long workers, and that whatever funds he had were his; he could do with them as he chose.
What would the Lord have us learn about Him from this parable? There are three things.
First, the Lord Jesus seeks laborers for His vineyard. There is much work to be done if we are going to win the world for Christ and train those who have been won to reproduce themselves and bear fruit in abundance. We are not saved to sit, soak, and sour; we are saved to serve the Lord. The most frustrated person in the world, I believe, is not the unsaved person; he has little understanding of what really awaits him. The most frustrated person in the world is the one who is saved and does not know why God has left him on the earth. Ephesians 2:10 claims, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." The Lord saved us to be laborers in His field.
Secondly, the Lord Jesus hires laborers at various hours and various stages in life. The Church did not begin fully equipped. Throughout history others have been added to the New Testament Church, as we have been added during these last decades. Those who were apostles in the New Testament Church will not receive a greater wage for their labors simply because they entered early into Christ's vineyard. God is interested in rewardable labor, not the hour in which we became laborers. If you have come to know the Lord as Saviour later in life and have not had the opportunities to serve Him as those who have been saved many years, do not despair. God is absolutely just in meting out rewards.
Thirdly, the Lord Jesus rewards generously as well as justly. This final lesson that this parable teaches us is perhaps the greatest of all. Each of these laborers was rewarded in an unexpected manner. Each one received a penny, a day's wage; and no one could complain that he was paid less than fair wages. Beyond acting justly to those who had been hired first, the householder acted generously to the others. When people see generosity to others and not to themselves, they are hurt and accuse the generous person of being unfair. But this is not the case. Having rewarded justly, the Lord Jesus was then free to reward generously.
A kind storekeeper once said to a little girl who was eagerly eyeing a jar of candy, "Take some; take a whole handful!" The little girl hesitated for a moment and then replied, "Will you please give it to me? Your hand is bigger than mine!" When we begin to compare our lives with others and compute our anticipated rewards, we will be dissatisfied. We must let the hand of God reward us as He deems just and fair. Remember, His hand is always bigger than ours. Let us live for Him today; let Him reward us tomorrow.
MORNING HYMN Praise the Saviour, ye who know Him! Who can tell how much we owe Him? Gladly let us render to Him All we are and have.
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