Laborers in the Vineyard

Lord help us to serve you with the right attitude and leave the results in your hands.


Matthew 20:1, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.”


President William Mckinley once wrote to Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, “For labor, a short day is better than a short dollar.”  What would he say to the men in this story who had a long day and a short dollar?  How does this story compare to today’s labor situation?  Did Jesus understand labor situation of His day?


1.  What was Jesus talking about in this parable?

What He was not saying!

He was not talking about salvation.  To make a penny (a day’s wages) stand for salvation is to miss the whole point of the story.  Why?  To use the hours of the day to symbolize the ages at which men respond to Christ’s call to salvation also misses the meaning of the parable.  Nor is Christ dealing with gaining rewards.  Rewards are granted on the basis of faithfulness in service (1 Corinthians 3:8).


2.  What was Jesus teaching in this parable?

He was warning His disciples about wrong attitudes in service.  The setting of this parable (Matthew 19:16-30) makes this clear.  Peter’s response to the rich young ruler’s attitude showed that there was something lacking in his attitude toward serving Christ. To counteract the subtle attitude of “What am I going to get?” the Lord told this parable.  In this parable, there are three warnings about Christian service.


3.  Beware of making bargains with God.

The early laborers would not work until they had a contract with the owner (vv. 2 and 13).  The laborers who were hired later did not bargain with the owner about wages.  They trusted him to do what was right.  The owner paid them in reverse order to show how generous he could be to those who did not bargain with him.  The early laborers had no right to complain, because they got exactly what they bargained for. 


How did this apply to Peter?  Jesus was warning Peter of the danger of bargaining with God, because you will get exactly what you bargain for.  If we write the contract and tell God what we want, we will always be the losers.  But if we let Him do it His way, we will receive “exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).   Compare Genesis 18:25; Colossians 4:1; Romans 5:9-10,15, 17, 20; Matthew 7:11.