Lesson Info:

Lesson 12
Summer Quarter 2023
Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16
Golden Text: (v.14)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Laborers for the vineyard
The giving of rewards
God’s graciousness

Watch & Listen


Our lesson this week is the second lesson within the final unit of lessons which is titled:  Entering God’s Kingdom.  As we saw in our lesson last week, in order for one to enter into God’s kingdom, they must find forgiveness in the eyes of God.  Because of God’s grace, as we will see in our lesson today, all of us have a right to inherit the kingdom of God.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20 opens with Jesus telling a parable about God and His gracious rewards.  Again, when we speak about God’s graciousness, we are speaking about His unmerited love towards us – mankind.  In His compassion and love for the world, He has given mankind a second chance by giving the world His only begotten Son who washes us clean of our sins through our faith in Him.

Laborers for the vineyard

The parable begins with Jesus speaking of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus states that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out and hired laborers for his vineyard (v.1).  As I have done the past few weeks, I will ask you, who do you think the landowner is in this parable?  Who do you think the hired laborers are for the vineyard?  

God is the landowner and in this case, the hired laborers are servants of the Lord – believers.  I do find it interesting that the idea here is that the believer is being likened to being ‘hired’ by the Lord.  But, as we will see by the end of this parable, we are all servants of the Lord that will be rewarded for our labor for the Lord. 

Jesus tells us that the landowner and the hired laborers came to an agreement that the laborers would receive a denarius a day for their work (v.2).  So, the laborers went into the vineyard and they began to work.  About the third hour, Jesus tells us that the landowner went to the vineyard and saw others standing idle in the marketplace (v.3).  So, the landowner offered them work and said to them, “whatever is right, I will give you.”

Essentially, what we see in this verse also happens in the next few verses as the landowner, after a few hours, would offer others work in the vineyard  (vss.3-7).  By the time the evening rolled around, the landowner had a vineyard full of workers beginning from those he hired at the third hour (9am) and ending with those hired during the eleventh hour (around 4 to 5pm/just before sunset).

The idea behind this parable focuses on the believers living in the world.  As we know, anyone can become a follower of Christ at any point in time in their life.  I was baptized when I was 8 years old and I began to truly believe in the Lord in my 20s.  For some of us, our journey of faith and laboring for the Lord begins early on in life, while for others, the journey comes much later.  The Lord, we should understand, is always adding to His vineyard – the doors are never closed.

The giving of rewards

Now, there is a reward that awaits all of those that believe in the Lord and we will receive that reward when our life is physically done and Christ raptures the church at the end of this present age.

Within this parable, we will see Jesus touch on how the Lord will reward His servants.  The landowner, we should remember, had promised to give the laborers that initially began in the vineyard one denarius while telling the others they would get “whatever is right.”  

What do you think would be right for them to receive if they didn’t put in as much time as those who began around 9am?  Many of us would say that those who began later in the day, especially those that came at the last minute, should not receive as much as those that worked from 9am.  

Scripture tells us that the landowner called the laborers and gave them their wages, beginning with the last to the first (v.8).  Now, that is already very interesting, right?  Could you imagine working in that vineyard from 9am and not being paid first, but the person that showed up last is being paid first?  I believe most of our heads would have popped off!

If you were not already set off, what happened next in the parable would really set you off.  Jesus tells us in the parable that those that were hired last minute received a payment – or reward – of a denarius (v.9)!  Like I said, I believe many of us would have been in an uproar that someone who had just showed up received the same amount we would receive.  In fact, I can see it now where we would have been asking for a raise or for those last folks not to get one single thing!

In the parable, we see Jesus speak of such an outburst happening in the parable; to me, this proves just how well Jesus understands us!  When the first came, we are told that they supposed that they would receive more, however, they were giving just a denarius (v.10).  

I don’t know about you but I can see the mouths of those who were first hired already dropping in hysteria.  We are told that when they received the denarius they made their complaints to the landowner about thow late those folks had shown up to work in comparison to how long they had worked (vss.11-12).

Do you and I, all of us who have been of faith several years now, deserve greater rewards than those who maybe just began to be of faith?  Should anyone even be thinking that way when it comes to our rewards from God?  Absolutely not!

God’s graciousness

The landowner looked at these servants who, quite frankly, were being foolish and pulled one to the side to say to them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius (v.13)?  In the landowner’s eyes, he was just being faithful to the word that had already been established.  In saying that he would give what was right to the others was Him simply saying that He would be fair.

The landowner then said, “Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you (v.14).”  I have quoted 1 John 1:9 the past couple of weeks and I will quote it here as well in that the Lord is both faithful and just – He is a fair God.  According to the world, those first hired laborers would have certainly been in the right, but the Lord’s thoughts are not worldly; God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are also higher (Is. 55:9).

With that thought in mind, I must ask, who are we to think we can tell the Lord what to do and what to give?  You and I don’t have the authority to tell God what He should do.  You and I don’t have the authority to tell the Lord what is fair.  God is righteous and what He says and does is always right!

Our lesson closes out on that same note.  Jesus concluded the parable by asking the question:  “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?  Or is the eye evil because I am good (v.15)?”  Let us understand, when it comes to God’s rewards of faith, we cannot approach the Lord with a worldly mindset.  The world, and its mindset, will always stand in opposition against God.

Even though I have been a believer before many, I must come to understand that God is gracious to all and loves all of us with the same love.  God shows no favors in the manner that we show favor in the world.  As believers, don’t think yourself as being more special than another believer because you have been walking by faith for 30 years more than another.

Jesus then closed out the lesson saying, “So the last will be first, and the first last (v.16).”  As believers, rather than being upset that God is being as gracious to another as He is towards us should never upset us.  No, we should rejoice that the Lord has answered our and that He is being both gracious and a blessing to all of those around us.


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