The Parable of the Vineyard Workers

Vineyard Workers

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise Pt. #3 Matthew 20:1-16

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on September 27th 2015

As we continue our series in Matthew and specifically in Matthew 20, it would be easy to get caught up in the social justices of improper wages, and while the bible does have more direct verses dealing with these injustices such as James 5:4, which says, “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” But this sermon is not a sermon on proper wages, or fairness in the workplace. As we look at it in context, it’s another parable highlighting what Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. And that teaching demonstrates that our salvation isn’t about you!! If this teaching was about wage earning, it certainly wouldn’t be fair for a group to do all the work and get the same pay. This parable is about the Kingdom of God, not individuals pay for the work they did. That’s why it begins with, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house.”

In our passage today, Jesus is still answering Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27, “…what will we have? It’s that gnawing question we often ask, “What do we get out of this?’ And as we saw in Jesus’ answer, we get everything and that everything is Him; it’s “eternal life,” which according to John 17:3 is to “know God, the only true God, and Jesus Christ His Son. Jesus is our prize! Too often we look to Jesus to give us what we want to soothe us and to give us happiness, when He is the end game. Jesus’ answer doesn’t work for those looking for ‘more.’ Matthew 19:30 ends with, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Peter still doesn’t get it He still is looking for what Jesus can do for Him, especially in the restoration of Israel as a power in the region. So Jesus tells yet another Parable, and what we see is the parable ends with very similar words to V. 19:30. “…the last will be first, and the first last.” There are 2 differences, one is Matthew reverses the order in 20:16, and in the Greek manuscript, he adds definite articles for emphasis. This displays a clear bracket around this story emphasizing Jesus’ main point, which is; In God’s Kingdom It Is Grace (Unmerited favor) That Reigns Not Our Actions. This is the basic idea behind the “The first will be last and the last first.” In our modern churches, grace has often become what JI Packer referred to as “Boring Grace.” It becomes boring when we don’t think we need it. The Jews had many years of “Service” to God, and after awhile, you start thinking that “I have done a lot for God! Doesn’t He owe me something?” After awhile, we feel we haven’t really sinned that bad, and we have done a lot to earn God’s favor so;

  • Why didn’t God answer my prayer?
  • Why didn’t God allow me to get that job?
  • Why is my marriage so bad?
  • How come God didn’t heal my mom?
  • How come my church doesn’t grow?

It’s not that hard to fall into this category. Until we realize that God’s Kingdom is once again, that upside down Kingdom. The world thinks totally different than God in relation to God’s grace. Humans instinctively desire some sort of god or gods. We want some sort of “Spirituality,” but we want to take part in it. We want to “Own” our beliefs, but God consistently reminds us that we are too broken for that to happen. We can’t do enough, and without His grace we are steeped in our sins and lost forever.

A second thought in regard to our story is the idea that God’s Compassion Is For People, Not What He Could Benefit From People. Those hired in the eleventh hour wanted to work, but there was not enough work for them. These people needed to work daily to eat and support their families, but there wasn’t always enough work for them. No one wanted to over-hire because it would cost too much money, but God in His compassion brings these workers in at the last hour of the day, and then pays them for a full days wage, which was a Denarius (The wage that the early workers had agreed upon). This master did not benefit at all from these workers. Certainly not a full days wage worth, but he paid them that anyway out of his compassion for them, and their great need for the money to sustain them.

One last thought from our passage is that Our Place In The Kingdom Is Not Based On When We Start, But On Who Calls Us To Work. It isn’t how long you work, or how much you work that matters, just that God called you to work. The Jews really had entitlement issues, and Jesus is telling them that none of their history, and none of their works entitle them to anything. It is about Him who calls, and when we are called by Him to work, we do so diligently, not for pay, but because of the joy set before us, and what He has done for us. We see this clearly from Jesus, our example in Hebrews 12:2. “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus is the place we look to for our calling; that even when we are called to hard ministries, we do so looking to Jesus, who found joy in the midst of His painful calling. It is easy to get caught up in the “It’s not fair” argument, and that God owes you something, but in reality God doesn’t owe us anything. He righteously could have us all condemned to hell, but He chooses to save some to be His people for His purposes.

Do you use God and People for what you can get out of them? Maybe it’s time to repent of your self-righteousness, and bitterness toward God for not giving you what you deserve. There is nothing we do to earn our salvation; that is secured and made secure in Christ. Subsequently we have no right to demand anything out of God.

To listen to the sermon, go to: The Vineyard Workers

Questions To Ponder

  1. Why is this message of grace hard for some?
  2. Why do we sometimes feel God owes us something?
  3. In what way(s) do you feel this at times?
  4. What type of person does this attitude foster in a person?
  5. What can we learn from this passage in application to our own life?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson

For further dialogue with the sermon go to




The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 19:16-30

Give to the Poor

Is money evil? Not according to the very misquoted 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” There are plenty of figures in the bible who are considered godly and have ample cash.

Our passage today is also one that is often misquoted and misused. There are some who want to make this an absolute for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. However a deeper look into the passage shows that this isn’t the case. Our passage today (Matthew 19:16-30) demonstrates that God is sovereign and loving, and our heart idols are the very things that keep us from loving God well.

The rich young man in this narrative asks the question many ask in regard to their desire for eternal life, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” It’s the question many of us have had from time to time, whether we are religious or not. What’s interesting is Jesus’ response. He doesn’t go into the typical 3-4 point pithy gospel presentation asking him to accept Himself into his heart, as we would see many evangelicals do today; but Jesus probes further, because our salvation isn’t contingent on our adding Jesus to our already busy lifestyle. It is because of Jesus’ love for this man that He digs deeper in to the heart issues that are bugging this man (See the parallel passage Mark 10:21). Jesus tells him to keep the commands. Why? It isn’t because Jesus is contradicting His own teachings , as well as the disciple’s teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, but He is trying to show this man where his problem lies; in his heart.

Generally, this man is a good man. The culture saw him as good, but Jesus, who doesn’t judge the outside, but the inside heart issues, realizes that this man has not used his money well, and has developed a love for money that has negated his love for his neighbor. This is why Jesus tells him to do commands 6-9 and another command found in Leviticus 19:18. Those were external commands that the man could appear to keep, but it’s only when Jesus reaches deep in to the real issue (Greed, love of money) that exposed his idols and his heart strings. Jesus tells him there is one more thing, “Sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven, and follow me.” Jesus hit him right where his idol was; his check book. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are pretty good, and in most cases that may be true; but it is those things we can’t live without and that get in the way of a real relationship with the God that hurt us as people. Jesus cared enough to expose that reality, but instead of repenting of that idol and following Jesus, the text says “…he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.” His “treasure” was not Jesus. Jesus promised him the treasure he is seeking by letting go of his idol and following him.

In many ways we do the same thing. We’re too busy for Jesus. We have other loves on our mind. We too often seek God, not as the prize or treasure, but as the means to that treasure.

What comes next is interesting. Jesus’ disciple’s witness this, and are “Astonished.” From their vantage point then was “If that guy is out of the Kingdom, then who can get in?” It’s a fair question, and Jesus immediately reminds them that with man it is impossible, but with God “All things are possible!” Our salvation is not from our works. If it were, we would be in trouble. Our salvation comes from God’s “Good Deeds” in Chris Jesus. We are called to repentance from our good works (Hebrews 6:1), as well as, the idols and sins that beset us, and trust that Jesus is truly who He says He is; the Messiah. The reason it is hard for the rich man to obtain salvation is not because of his riches, but because of his affections. His true love and reliance, trust and worth is based on money, not God. This is the heart of man’s problems. It is these heart lusts that oppress others that often lead to greater issues in our world. Jesus is here to heal us from our addictive bondage to our sins and desires that continue to ruin us.

We all have idols, and it is through God’s sovereign grace that we are saved at all. When his disciples, still astonished, ask “What then will we have?” Jesus reminds them that whatever they have left for Him, will be given back to them one hundred times. We are all seeking our joy, worth and sustenance from everywhere but who we were created to get it from, and it has created desires in all of us that separate us from the creator who created us with the purpose to worship Him, and find our joy and worth in the praise itself.

We will be very surprised I think in the end, as we realize those that we thought were first, and those we thought were last will be first. Once again, we have the crazy upside down Kingdom of God, where those that die, live, and those that try to find life apart from God, die.