THE GOOD NEWS: The parable of the workers
Put yourself in the shoes of the workers in this parable. All the workers agree to a day’s wage, yet they all get hired on at different times. One group is hired at the beginning of the day, another at mid-day, and the last with just an hour left. Does something seem unfair here? Why should people that only worked an hour receive the same pay as someone who worked the entire day?
Jesus is teaching on a matter much deeper and more spiritual than the work done in a literal vineyard. What’s going on in this parable?
The vineyard represents the Kingdom of Heaven, the owner is God, and the workers are you and me. The Kingdom of Heaven is coming, just as the vineyard was ripe for harvest. God calls us as the owner called the workers to work.
When the workers got called to work, they felt that the work they were doing was crucial to the success of the vineyard even though a wealthy vineyard owner would have had his own workers. They had worked more on behalf of the vineyard and therefore the vineyard benefited the most from their work. They thought they deserved the highest pay.
We do the same. We look at the Kingdom of Heaven and we delude ourselves into thinking that there’s work that we do that furthers God’s Kingdom. We consider all the "good works" we do: going to church, Bible study, reading the Bible, and so on, as if they were services we render to God. We think that we ought to be paid in some form for our faithful living. We act like the good works we do are a favor to God, that he is helped by them, and that we should be rewarded for them.
Even more, our sinful flesh contains a selfish heart. We look at our neighbor and we judge. I go to church and Bible study more than him; therefore, God should reward me more.
But the reality is this for those whom God has called. In God’s Kingdom, whether you’ve worked since the beginning of the day or whether you were called in the last hour, your reward is life everlasting in Christ, and it is a gift of charity, not of earned payment. The Kingdom of God does not rely on you. We are unworthy and incapable of working in God’s Kingdom on our own. There is only one person the Kingdom of Heaven relies on.
Jesus Christ is the one who does the work. God called on him from the beginning of time to be the worker for his Kingdom. He was the one that came and lived the perfect life, was faithful to God, loved his neighbor, died on the cross, and rose again. He did it all!
Jesus did the work and therefore should receive the full payment. Yet, all he received was death. Instead, we sinners get it all. We’re paid for work we didn’t do! We are forgiven and will live forever.
Consider this: the vineyard owner hired on numerous strangers each for a full day’s wage even though he didn’t need to. Who is absorbing that cost? The vineyard owner was from his own pocket! The wages of our sin is death, and yet, we’ve been given the payment of life everlasting as charity. Who is absorbing that cost? God did when he sent his Son to die our death and bear our sin.
The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t depend on us. Yet, in his mercy, God has called us to work it. He has elected to forgive us and to use us as his instruments to accomplish his will, not to the glory of men, but to his own glory. By grace alone, God has gifted us the precious gift of his Son’s life. Therefore, we are assured by God’s powerful Word that we will dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity.
The Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at email@example.com