For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
What would you do in the following situation? You have been employed by the XYZ Company for twenty-four years. It was your first job out of college, and it has been your only job since then. Over those years you have received some periodic wage increases. You don’t have an exorbitant salary, but it’s a comfortable salary and you are content. Your company hired another employee one month ago. His name is Bill, and Bill is now working for the same company in the same position. One Friday afternoon you go down to your mail slot to pick up your check. You open the check and realize there is a mistake. Someone put Bill’s check in your envelope. And as you look at the check, you are astounded to see that Bill is making twice the salary you are making, even though he has the same job and has only been working at the company for one month. What would be your response? Would you . . .
a. storm into your boss’s office and give him a piece of your mind?
b. shrug and say to yourself, “Well, that’s just the way it is. I’m lucky to have a job”?
c. secretly resent both Bill and your boss?
This is the situation Jesus described in the parable we will look at this week. But far from trying to teach us practical lessons about labor relations, this parable teaches us a very important spiritual lesson about how God rewards His children. This week will observe the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20 as we look at what I call a lesson in workman’s compensation.
We have talked about how a parable usually does not teach more than one truth. Instead, a parable usually zeroes in on just one truth, and it is told in a specific historical context. Jesus would put an everyday illustration alongside some divine eternal truth. And we find that in this parable in Matthew 20.
The main principle of this parable, as we will learn this week, is very simple: God’s standard for rewards is different than our standards. Jesus drives home that truth by repeating a statement not once but twice—at the beginning of the parable and at the end of the parable. This is an oft-repeated but seldom understood statement many of us have likely heard in churches before: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16)
We hear this statement all the time, but few people understand the biblical context of what Jesus was trying to say. This week we will discover what it means as Jesus explains it in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Lesson in Workman’s Compensation” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.