The Parable of the Laborers

matthew.20.1-16We see in Matthew 20:1-16 the Parable of the Laborers. A landowner went out to hire workers for his vineyard. He first went out early in the morning, and then again at several different times during the day, including one hour before quitting time, and hired more laborers. At the end of the day he paid the last hired the same as the first hired even though the first hired worked longer and during the heat of the day. Matthew 20:13-16 describes the landowner’s response to charges of unfairness – “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you.  Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

The landowner acted honorably in paying the workers the same that worked fewer hours, even many fewer hours.  He upheld his agreement with those hired first and had the right to be generous to others, being gracious to them who had waited all day for someone to hire them and needed a full days wage as well. In the same way God is sovereign over all and to some he gives more talents and gifts and wealth than others.  For some life is hard—perhaps with bad parents, lack of education to earn a good living, not as attractive as others, etc.—as at the same time others lives are less hard.  However, this does not make God unfair because as God He has the right to create us as He sees fit and to use us according to His plan for our life. Also, those who get saved late in life will still be entitled to the eternal joys of heaven even though they may not have faced the heat of the day (toil, sacrifice, persecution, etc) as others are ordained to, although with perhaps fewer rewards.

Whatever the lot God assigns to us we know that God will provide for our needs (Matt 6:31-33); send the Holy Spirit to help us (John 14:26); provide us with all joy (John 15:11); equip us to do his will (Heb 13:21); give us a chosen role in the Body of Christ (I Cor 12:18); and is preparing us a home in heaven as we work for him here on earth (John 14:2-3).  Whatever sacrifices are called for here on earth, how can we complain when we consider our eternal rewards.

One day God will wipe away every tear (Rev 21:4) but in the meantime we can serve God with the gifts and talents and life he has graciously given us without being jealous of those who may have been given more or required to do less.

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