3 Lessons from the Parable of the Vineyard Workers

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is also known as the Parable of the Vineyard, the Parable of the Vineyard Owner, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, and the Parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. This parable is noted in one Gospel of the Bible, in Matthew 20:1. You can find it HERE.

The parables of Jesus teach us valuable life lessons, but some can be confusing. In the case of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the vineyard owner seems to treat his best workers unfairly. As humans, we want things to be “fair”, especially when it comes to how we’re treated. Well, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard shows fairness, but not as we humans gauge fairness. Keep reading to make more sense of God’s heavenly ways…

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard Summary

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is told by Jesus in Matthew 20:1-16. In it, the vineyard owner hires workers in the morning with the promise of a daily wage of a denarius, the typical wage of the day, which the workers accepted. Throughout the day, the vineyard owner hired more workers with the promise to give them a fair wage, which they all accepted. When it came time for the wages to be distributed, they began with the last hired, who had worked for a very short time. Those workers were given a denarius, and so on, until the workers who had been hired first in the morning. When they received only a denarius, they were upset because they expected more and felt they’d been treated unfairly. But the owner had kept his deal with them as they had agreed. He hadn’t treated them unfairly but had a right to spend his money as he chose. If he wanted to be generous to the other workers, it was not a slight to the early workers.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20 1 16 Meaning

The meaning of The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is a beautiful lesson in God’s justice and righteousness but its logic conflicts with our typical human thinking. When God gives grace and blessings to others, it is a kindness to them, not an injustice to us. God is fair and merciful. His sovereignty is above all else.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers 3 Moral Lessons

1. God’s way is not like our way

Human nature is to compare and feel slighted if we feel we’ve been given “less than”. But God’s nature doesn’t work the same way ours does. In His divinity, He chooses the blessings and mercy we receive in ways that we might not understand. He gives to each of us according to His divine insight, so it will be different for each of us. If we perceive that we “work harder” or longer than someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean that our reward will be more than theirs. Our challenge as humans is not to focus on what we perceive to be “fair” but instead focus on developing a personal relationship with God that makes us thankful for every gift we receive without envy of others. Trust that He knows what’s best for you.

2. God may not give equally but it doesn’t mean it’s not fair

A kingdom has order and structure. In the heavenly kingdom, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father.  We don’t all get to sit next to God. Everything is not given equally or according to our effort, but it doesn’t mean it’s not fair.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64

As another example in heaven, in Matthew 19:28-30 (below), Jesus explains that His faithful apostles will also sit on thrones and judge the tribes of Isreal. This gives us a sneak peek into Jesus’ inner circle and He hasn’t reserved one of those prestigious thrones for us. Everything is not given equally. He also says there will be a “first” and there will be a “last”. This indicates a ranking or an order, not given equally. Even with these “inequalities”, those in heaven will all enjoy the beautiful reward of eternal salvation without being jealous about what God gave to someone else instead of us.

We can apply the same concept to our earthly life. Because God doesn’t necessarily give according to our effort, it doesn’t mean He isn’t fair and loving. We can always expect our God to reward us fairly for our contribution to His Kingdom.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Matthew 19:28-30

3. God is Sovereign

God has a right to do what He wants. He’s the Almighty Creator! He knows what’s best and He is true to His Word.  If He makes a promise, He will do it. If He withholds something you pray for, He has a reason. Trust His will. Accept His decisions. Be thankful for His blessings.

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Parable of the Vineyard Workers

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is sometimes referred to as the Parable of the Vineyard Owner or the Laborers in the Vineyard. Matthew 20:1-16 NIV is listed here:

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers in the Vineyard

20 “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[a] 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.”

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers Commentary – Matthew 20 1 16

Find the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (or the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard) Commentary. Bible Study Tools.com offers free and paid versions. For this article, I referred to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary.

This post may contain affiliate links. This is my full disclosure.

More Parables!

Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others (listed below), these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings. More parable lessons are underway. See them all HERE!

Do you love journaling? Does writing down your personal reflections help you process your thoughts more fully? Perhaps these Christian writing journals will be helpful as you reflect on the life lessons of the parables.

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