June 23

Text: Matthew 20:1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 15

 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. . . .  Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.  And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he *said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' . . . And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius. And when they received it, they grumbled at the landowner . . .  'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' (NASB)

This lengthy parable was used to describe God’s kingdom.  It made two basic points.

The parable: the grape harvest had come.  A vineyard owner hired workers to harvest his grapes.  He agreed on a day’s wage with those hired at 6 am.  Throughout the day he continued to hire workers (at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p. m., and the last hour of the day)—unusual.  The owner paid each group the same wages.  The first group anticipated they would receive more—though they received their full wage.  However, their anticipations made them unhappy as they felt mistreated.

The two points: (1) The anticipations of people do not determine the behavior of a generous God. (2) The primary problem with the first group was envy, not God’s (the vineyard owner’s) generosity. 

We need to understand that the principles that govern God’s kingdom are not human expectations.  We also need to understand that God’s generosity is cause for rejoicing, not jealousy.  The first shall be last is a remarkable principle if we are not the first.  How does this parable relate to Peter’s question?

Suggestion for reflection: How will you feel if the last person saved receives the same reward you receive?  (Read Ephesians 2:1-10.)

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