Laborers in His Kingdom
By Chris Rathbone
Jesus teaches a parable about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 20:1-16. A parable is an earthly story or example that teaches a heavenly truth. Jesus used everyday examples that people could identify with and used these examples to teach eternal truths. An object lesson so to speak.
In this parable, the owner of an estate goes out very early in the morning, probably at dawn to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. He hires laborers and agrees to “a penny a day” or a denarius, which is a day’s wages in that time. He goes back out at 9 am and hires more. At noon, at 3 pm, and 5 pm he does the same. At the end of the day, he gathers all the laborers to pay them their wages for the day. He begins with the last ones to be hired and pays them a penny, or denarius, which again, is a day’s wages. This continues down to the laborers he hired at the beginning of the day. Every laborer was paid equally regardless of when they were hired. When the ones hired first saw what everyone was paid this was said: verses 10-12 state: “But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.” In other words, these men who had started at dawn felt like they should receive more pay even though they had agreed on the wages at the start of the day.
The owner of the vineyard responds to them in verses 13-15: “But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” These laborers were not wronged in any way by the one who hired them, he paid them and the others what was agreed upon. And besides that, he was the owner of the vineyard and could do with his own what he wanted. Jesus ended this parable with this statement in verse 16: “So the last shall be first and first last: for many are called, but few chosen.”
Remember, this parable is to teach us about the kingdom of heaven and salvation. The owner who hires the laborers is representative of God. The laborers who are hired represent believers. God offers to each one to become part of His kingdom. The ones He calls to believe have the choice whether or not to agree to be “hired” or believe. Once they believe they become laborers in His vineyard, His kingdom. They entered only because of His grace! He does with His own what He wants! Whether we come to salvation early in life, late in life, or in the middle of our lives we all receive the same gift of salvation. Those who may have served Jesus for many years are not “more saved” than those who were saved yesterday! We all are in His kingdom by His grace and His grace alone. To think that any of us are better than someone else because we have been saved longer is a work and attitude of this world and sinful flesh. To think we have an advantage over someone who has only just recently been saved is just plain wrong. The statement Jesus makes about the last being first and first being last isn’t about switching places, or rewards, or having an advantage over someone else. It is about being equal. It’s about the fact that we all have entered the kingdom of God by grace, we have all been chosen to labor in His kingdom by grace, we have all received the gift of eternal life by His grace, and He by His grace has bestowed upon us all as sinners the gift of eternal life!
My friends, rejoice not in how long you have been saved and rejoice not that you have been saved longer than someone else. Don’t think that you or I have some sort of advantage over another because we’ve been saved longer. Rejoice in the fact that God through Christ has saved us period! We rejoice not in how long we have been saved but in the fact that we have been saved! Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift! Thanks be unto God that we are laborers in His kingdom!
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.
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