Wages and Work Hours
September 19 - Nº 262 Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus had just told his followers “. . . many who think they are first here on earth will be last when it comes to heaven. And many who are last now, will be first in heaven” (see #261 - A Rich, Young Ruler). He immediately went on to explain this statement by telling a parable. It was about a landowner who needed some day laborers to work in his vineyard. So early in the morning he went into town to hire workers. He chose some men from among the many who were hoping to be employed. He promised to pay them the standard wage—one denarius for a day’s labor. A little later he realized that he needed more help to get the work done, so he went back into town and hired more workers. He did not offer these men a certain wage, but he assured them that they would be treated fairly. This happened two more times during the day. When there was only about one hour of daylight left, the landowner went back into town. He noticed that there were still several men standing around. “Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?” he asked. “Because no one hired us,” they answered. “I could use you to help finish up in my vineyard,” the owner said. “Go ahead and get to work.” Again, he made no specific commitment about their wages. At the end of the workday, the owner of the vineyard called his foreman over. “Gather the workers and pay them,” he said. “Begin with the last ones I hired, then the next, until you get to the first.” So, the foreman began to pass out the payments. Everyone was amazed when they saw that the men who had worked only one hour received a full day’s pay. The ones waiting in line became excited. They couldn’t wait to see how much they would receive! But it was the same amount—one denarius! The ones who had worked all day began to grumble. They received exactly what the landowner had promised, but it did not seem fair! Jesus finished the parable by restating the lesson he was trying to teach: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” At the beginning of the workday, everyone thought that the laborers who were hired first were the lucky ones. They were no doubt the strong, healthy-looking guys who were always chosen first. The men who were not hired until the end of the day were probably seldom offered a job—possibly being overlooked because of their age or poor physical condition. Yet they hung in there, hoping they could earn at least a little bit of money to take home to their families. Up until the last hour of daylight, life seemed very unfair to them. But the landowner changed everything! Jesus wanted his disciples to stop caring about what other people had. He wanted them to stay focused on God’s grace in their lives. He wanted them to trust Him with the results—He would make things more than fair! Grace does not fit anywhere on a scorecard. It is impossible to figure out—but it is amazing to enjoy!
When we think life isn’t fair, it means we are doubting God’s goodness. It shows that we are trusting our own perspective more than His wisdom. We should thank Him for the grace He has already shown to us. It is only by His grace that we have received eternal life.