Laborers in the Vineyard
November 2, 2014
Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 29:1–29:16
“Matthew: Gospel of the Grace of God”
“LABORERS in the VINEYARD”
Is GOD FAIR? Or, as ABRAHAM asked, will “the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25b)
Our “Sunday School” answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” – but, deep in the hearts of many Bible-reading, church-going people, there is an underlying RESENTMENT toward the Almighty.
This resentment is due to the lingering belief that, at some point in their lives, God was UNFAIR:
All my FRIENDS are happily MARRIED, while I’m still SINGLE.
I’m as TALENTED as he is, & I work HARDER than he does, but he’s the one with the big OFFICE & the big SALARY.
My DAD worked HARD all his life; he PAID his BILLS; he PROVIDED for his FAMILY; he SUPPORTED his COMMUNITY; he faithfully ATTENDED his CHURCH - & yet, he died before really getting a chance to ENJOY his RETIREMENT, & he died far too SLOWLY & PAINFULLY.
We would never ADMIT such feelings of RESENTMENT & even BITTERNESS toward God - & yet, it seems a recurring human TENDENCY to HARBOR such GRUDGES against Him.
And yet, the Bible clearly teaches that it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be anything LESS than perfectly JUST: Rom.2:6-11.
“God shows no partiality.” We must keep that reality FIRMLY in mind as we examine this fascinating parable this morning.
At first glance, this story seems STRANGE, because clearly, the master of the house seems to treat some of his workers UNFAIRLY in the end.
What BUSINESSMAN would operate this way? Not for LONG, for who would WORK for such a person?
But, with a CLOSER & LONGER examination, we see clearly the ERROR of that interpretation, for this is not a parable about GOD being GOOD to us because WE have been FAITHFUL to Him.
This parable is NOT about REWARD, but REDEMPTION - &, in BOTH cases, God is PERFECTLY FAIR.
Remember PETER’S QUESTION: 19:27.
Jesus ANSWERED that they would be ABUNDANTLY rewarded: 19:29 – but then He adds: 19:30.
And notice how this parable ENDS: v.16.
God relates to us in EVERY way according to His GRACE:
It is strictly by His grace that He SAVES us; &
It is strictly by His grace that He REWARDS us.
And we need to try hard to REMEMBER that, because, no matter how many times we sing “Amazing Grace,” we find ourselves thinking that God OWES US something - & that is when we think that He is UNFAIR.
Let’s briefly look at the BASICS of this story.
V.1 – these were temporary day-laborers who were hired for the busy time of the vineyard season.
They survived by working day-to-day, job-to-job. They were not far above the level of BEGGARS.
V.2 – this was a GOOD wage; the wage of a Roman soldier - & remember that it was an offer that they AGREED to.
Vs.3-4 – the first workers were hired at 6:00 A.M., & these at 9:00 A.M. They weren’t hired LATE because they were LAZY; they simply had not been PICKED yet.
They’d didn’t BARGAIN with the owner for a wage; they were just glad to have a JOB for the day.
Vs.5-7 – as with the second group, those hired at noon, at 3:00, & even in the ELEVENTH hour, 5:00, were put to work for the remainder of the day.
Then the DAY was OVER, & it was time for the WORKERS to receive their PAY - & this is where the story REALLY gets interesting.
V.8 – it was not CUSTOMARY to pay the LAST workers FIRST.
V.9 – the OTHER workers, ESPECIALLY those hired at the BEGINNING of the day, naturally thought that they would be PAID MORE.
Vs.10-12 – what were they saying? “It’s NOT FAIR!” After all, “Little seems more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals!” (Craig Blomberg)
Note the MASTER’S RESPONSE.
V.13 – they had no RIGHT to COMPLAIN, because he had given them EXACTLY what they had AGREED upon.
Vs.14-15 – as the MASTER, I have the RIGHT to be as GENEROUS as I want to be.
The VINEYARD is the KINGDOM of HEAVEN: v.1.
The MASTER is GOD the Father.
The FOREMAN (v.8) is JESUS CHRIST.
The LABORERS are BELIEVERS.
The WAGE they receive (a denarius) is ETERNAL LIFE.
The WORK DAY is a believer’s LIFETIME of SERVICE.
EVENING is ETERNITY.
V.16 – here is the central MEANING of the parable: SALVATION is the SAME for EVERYONE who comes to faith in Jesus Christ.
“Everyone who belongs to God has all of God.” (John MacArthur)
So consider the implications of this reality:
The THIEF on the CROSS, saved during his FINAL MOMENTS of life, received the SAME SALVATION as the APOSTLES.
A person who receives Christ on his DEATHBED receives the SAME SALVATION as the one who was saved as a CHILD & lived a LONG LIFE of FAITHFUL SERVICE to the Lord.
Make no mistake, the Lord WILL REWARD His faithful servants!
1 Cor. 3:13-15 – there are JUST DIFFERENCES with REWARDS, but there is PERFECT EQUALITY with SALVATION.
So, is GOD FAIR?
It is impossible to ARGUE AGAINST the PERFECT WISDOM of this parable - & yet, it is still hard to avoid RESENTMENT.
When we are tempted to be RESENTFUL toward God, WHO do we RESEMBLE?
A central character in Jesus’ most FAMOUS parable: Luke 15:25-32.
Here is the attitude: “I have SERVED God MORE FAITHFULLY, therefore I DESERVE MORE than those who HAVEN’T.”
We have TROUBLE with GRACE.
WHO is WORTHY of SALVATION?
Isa. 64:6: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
Rom. 3:10-12 – are you SURE, then, that you really want God to be “FAIR” with you?
We should REJOICE whenever ANYONE is saved, REGARDLESS of the circumstances.
We should also EXAMINE ourselves: WHY do we SERVE God, anyway? Because we LOVE Him, or simply because we WANT SOMETHING from Him?
UNLIKE the OLDER BROTHER, we need to have the SPIRIT of a LOVING SON, rather than that of a HIRED HAND.
The God who ACCOMPLISHES SALVATION has the SOVEREIGN RIGHT to SAVE ANYONE He wants to save, at ANY TIME.
He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9b)
Here is the IDEAL: I should seek to COME to Christ as YOUNG as I can, & then SERVE Him FAITHFULLY for AS LONG as I can – not for what I CAN GET from Him, but because I LOVE Him.
And when He does GENEROUSLY REWARD me, as He has PROMISED, my RESPONSE should be, “I am an unworthy servant; I have only done what is my duty.” (cf. Luke 17:10b)
So, is GOD FAIR? That’s not even the QUESTION!
Instead, it is, is GOD GRACIOUS?