Jesus tells the rich man in verse 21, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” After hearing Jesus say this, it is Peter who asks Him in verse 27, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
It is then that Jesus tells them the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. He answers Peter’s question with this great teaching. Maybe you are someone who has followed Jesus for quite some time and you keep wondering, “When is it going to pay off?” Or maybe you see others who seem more blessed than you do and you feel slighted by God. This Parable will answer your questions and set your heart right.
The Parable is not About Salvation
First of all, it is clear that Jesus is not referencing salvation because man cannot work and earn salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that salvation is a gift of God. It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So clearly Jesus is not talking about salvation.
The Parable is not About Rewards
1 Corinthians 3:8 teaches, “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” This verse means that not everyone will receive the same reward. It will be according to how we live in this life.
So what is the true meaning behind the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?
This Parable is About the Right Attitude When Serving God
In the job world, your attitude can make or break your opportunities to go further. The same is true in the Kingdom of God. The Lord cares greatly what kind of attitude you have. This Parable teaches us that we must have the right attitude when serving God.
We will divide this section into two primary group of workers. The first group was hired at the beginning of the day. They were told a certain price and agreed to be hired for the day. Now, the second group was hired after midday and they did not agree to a contracted price. They were told to work and that they would be rewarded. The third group of workers were hired with only an hour or so left in the day, and again were not promised a certain wage, but was told that they would be paid.
Don’t Negotiate with God
At the end of the workday when the laborers were paid, the master of the property gave each worker the same wage as He had hired the first group. As you can imagine, this upset the first group of workers. They objected in verse 12 saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
I would imagine that if I had been one of these laborers, I might feel slighted as well. Why did they feel they deserved more? Because they had the wrong expectations. According to verse 8, they began handing out the pay from the last to the first. So naturally, when they saw those who had worked less being paid what was agreed upon, they felt that they would receive more.
A Difficult Question
If God does not meet your expectations in life, is He any less sovereign? If God chooses to not answer our prayers the way He answers the prayers of others, perhaps even others who do not live or serve God the way you do, is He any less sovereign?
This Parable is about having the right attitude toward the Lord. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to who no longer serve the Lord because they were hurt by God. I understand that we will feel disappointed by God at times, but that does not mean we have to stay disappointed. We should accept His sovereign will and go forward in our faith.
Do You Want A Contract or Generosity?
The first group worked under a contract. The second and third groups worked under the Mast’s generosity. Which would you prefer? I think I would rather have God’s generosity! Listen to Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
Do you trust the generosity of God? If you are struggling with unanswered prayers or disillusionment from the Lord, then ask the Lord to help you see that He is the Master of the Vineyard. He will do as He pleases, but the Bibles promises us that He works for our good as well. Do not get your eyes on others, don’t look to see what they have or what God has done for them. Keep your eyes on Christ and continue to go forward in your faith!