Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member
Recently I read a passage from Matthew 20:1-16. It’s about the Lord of the vineyard and the laborers. You are probably familiar with this parable, but in case you aren’t, I put it below:
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He *said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 9 When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 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.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
I learned a few lessons today that I would like to share. First, this parable is not about salvation. It’s about serving the Lord. The men in the parable are not working for their salvation as no one does that. They are working in the lord’s vineyard. The parable talks about how the different groups of men serve.
Please note that the first group of men actually wanted and received a contract. This is brought out in verse 2. Both parties agreed on the wages they would receive. Then as the Lord of the vineyard went out and found other men, there was no contract made. The Lord just told the men to go into the vineyard and he would pay them what was right. I can imagine what the group of men hired at 5 PM figured they weren’t going to get much for their hour of work but they went into the vineyard anyway.
Its time to get paid. Its interesting that the lord gave specific instructions like he did to pay the men. The ones who worked an hour came first and the ones who worked all day came last. You know the story. All the workers got exactly the same pay. Of course the group who worked the longest had something to say about all this. But the lord knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t do any injustice. The first group went home grumbling and all the other groups went rejoicing in the generosity of the lord of the vineyard.
So what can we learn from this and apply to our lives? Well, here are a few thoughts:
Our service for our Lord must be from the heart, not from any reward we might get from it. he first group were really hirelings. “We will do work for you but we expect a set reward.” They got what they asked for. The other groups were serving by faith. Yes, the lord of the vineyard told them he would pay them for their service. But he only told them he would give them what was right. Our Lord has promised us rewards for our service also. But what reward we get and when we get it is up to Him. The Lord knows our needs and we need to trust Him. And he is is a generous God.
Another thought is that people who deserve nothing should expect nothing. Do we deserve to be saved? No, of course not. We are saved totally by the grace through faith in Jesus Christ. While we aren’t saved by good works we are saved “unto” good works (Eph. 2:8-10). Our service to God must be from the heart, not for some reward me may want or expect (Eph. 6:6).
Third, we need to be careful of pride and comparison with others. The first group of workers had their contract for their days work. They got exactly what they signed up for. The others served by faith and got grace. The lord was generous and loving and out of his heart they got more than they expected. But again, the first group got just what they asked for. To me, this speaks of our need to be careful not to become proud of our service or envious of a reward that someone got that we thought we deserved. Just like the gifts of the Spirit, God gives His other gifts and rewards as He determines. Comparison with others usually leads to grumbling and disputing (or complaining). Philippians 2:14 tells us, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” This thought really spoke to me today.
Recently I was thinking about my 20 years here at GFA. Despite my times of grumbling and complaining with leadership, I realized that I have been treated with a lot of grace over the years. I have made some mistakes in the past and the ministry could have rightly let me go if they so desired. They didn’t. Just recently, I went into one of our leaders and told him that my support level had dropped over the last few months and that we may need to negotiate a lower salary level for me. The leader simply said that we did not need to do that. Over the years, I have had several other acts of grace and kindness of various kinds. I sometimes wonder it has been worth it to them. I still grumble and complain, at least to myself. As this started to be unveiled this morning I was able to confess it and ask God to change my heart. My sin has been forgiven and I trust God to change my heart. We serve an amazing God!!! Who else would put up with people like us whose hearts fluctuate day to day between loving God so much, and then moan and complain against Him. Thank you God for your mercy toward us, sinners, indeed. May God give us the grace and wisdom to serve Him from our hearts. God bless you, my friends.