A Full Day’s Pay: Matthew 20:1-16

Focus Passage: Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Read Matthew 20:1-16 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

There are a few big ideas I saw in today’s passage, and the big idea I want to focus on today is something that I would be surprised if it will happen at the end of time. In this parable, God, represented by the landowner, pays all of his workers equally, even though they all work for different lengths of time.

It is fairly easy to see a parallel in the people who grew up as Christ-followers and are saved as being those who were “hired” early. We also can see the contrasting parallel in the people who live their whole life not knowing Jesus, but who right before death, turn to Jesus, and are saved (i.e. the thief on the cross).

When we get to Heaven, what this parable implies is that those who followed Jesus all their lives will be jealous and envious of those who lived sinfully for 99.9999999% of their lives. I don’t really see this as happening when we all get to Heaven because we will be thrilled to be there, we will be focused on Jesus, and we will be happy meeting those who we are able to share eternity with.

Why would we be jealous? At that point in time, the past is over, and we’ve won. It really doesn’t matter.

However, what if someone we really didn’t like, or who we thought was a horrible person is in Heaven? Will that bother us? Looking at it from our perspective on earth, while we are still “working in the field”, it is easy to be jealous and/or envious of those who are no longer in the field—especially if we believe they made it to Heaven after something horrible they had done. But when we are looking from the heavenly perspective, and we’re together with them in Heaven, I still have a difficult time thinking I would be jealous.

However, I do feel that this misses the point of the parable. This parable isn’t as much about the reward as it is about God’s generosity. God rewards everyone who worked in the field with a full day’s work even though none of us deserve a full day’s pay. That in my mind is an amazing thought and one that it is hard to feel any jealousy about.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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