All workers generously rewarded
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells his followers the parable of the workers in the vineyard (1-16). The landowner goes out in the morning and hires workers to work the vineyard for one denarius. He then goes out again at nine, midday and then three to hire more workers, again paying one denarius each. He then goes out for a fifth time at 5 pm and hires another group of workers. At the end of the day (6 pm) he then pays the workers the agreed amount.
Understandably, the ones who had worked the whole day were put out (v.11). How was it fair that they, who had toiled all day in the harsh sun, receive the same amount as those who only worked for an hour in the coolest part of the day?
But this parable is not about God owing people something or being indebted to them; this parable is about God’s generous invitation into the kingdom of heaven (v1).
There are some people, like myself, who have been called to work in the vineyard early. I cannot remember a time when I did not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Our reward is a relationship with God in the present and the benefits of living with God beyond death.
Then there are others who encounter Jesus in their teens, young adult, adult, middle aged or even twilight years. Their reward is the same; a God in the present and the benefits of living with God beyond death.
In a lot of ways this does not seem fair. I often find myself sympathising with the complaining workers. How is it fair that the workers who worked the longest are paid the same as the workers that worked the least?
The fact that I sympathise with the complaining workers exposes something in my heart that needs to change; because it is the grumbling of these workers that is condemned in this parable.
The workers who were complaining forgot what their reward was and let greed and selfishness rule their hearts. Their reward was enough for their daily needs. It was the perfect reward, but they wanted more.
For those of us that have known Jesus for a long time, there is warning here; we are not to presume on God’s generosity and grace for greater rewards; our reward is already perfect and enough. God’s reward is exactly what we need, nothing more, nothing less.
For those who have not known Jesus for long there is also great hope in these words; it means that there is always a chance to turn back to God. There is always a chance to enter the vineyard and receive the reward because it is not dependent on what the worker has done, but on who God is, his generosity and graciousness.
P.S. Thank you all for your support and prayers for our family over the last couple of months. I am well on my way to recovering and am on a staged well to work plan. I look forward to reconnecting with you all as I take on more of my duties.
Rev’d Jonathan Cole