The Grumbling Workers

The Grumbling Workers

When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner.
—Matthew 20:10-11

In Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard, what did the workers do in response to the master’s unexpected pay scale? Those who had worked for 12 hours for the same pay as those who worked for one hour did what any of us would do—they complained. “They grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day’” (vv. 11–12). It is not fair! You should give us more since we worked longer hours! But notice the landowner’s response. He makes a threefold response to their complaint.

First, the landowner says, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you” (vv. 13–14). In other words, you got what you bargained for. I haven’t cheated you. You agreed to work all day for one denarius. You were happy about that arrangement earlier in the day. After all, you got exactly what you bargained for.

Second, the landowner says, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” (v. 15). In other words, I am free to do with my wealth whatever I want to do with it. This money is not yours; it is mine. If I want to give somebody 12 denarii, or if I want to give him one denarius, I am free to do whatever I want to do with my own money.

Third, the landowner asks, “Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (v. 15). In other words, he is saying to the grumbling workers, your unhappiness is not because of what I have done. Your unhappiness is because you are focused on other people. Did you know that the greatest source of discontent in our life is comparison? We are most discontent when we begin comparing what we have, or don’t have, to what other people have. Jesus said the real problem with these workers is that they were unhappy because they were focused on what other people have.

Then in verse 16, Jesus gives the application of the parable: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” Remember, this is not a lesson about distribution of wealth or labor relations. This parable teaches a single lesson—a lesson about how God rewards us. God’s standard of rewards is different than ours.

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.