Verse 1-2 "God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. 3-5"Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went. 5-6"He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o'clock. At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?' 7"They said, 'Because no one hired us.' "He told them to go to work in his vineyard. 8"When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.' 9-12"Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.' 13-15"He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'
16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
The parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning) of Matthew 20 has multiple things to garner from it.
The first realization is in the last verse.
Moses, Abraham, King David…all came before you and I were born - yet, when we die, our spirit gets to go to heaven immediately. Those who were here before Jesus died on the cross – have been waiting in a placed called “Abraham’s Bosom” since their death. They are waiting for the great rapture of the saints. So, we were last, but we taste heaven first – until the great day of the rapture. At that moment, the last (the “dead in Christ”) shall be raised first…and those of us who remain shall then be caught up last. That is the dual meaning of Matthew 20:16.
Now, I want to get to a more practical application of Matthew 20, and that is found within the confines of the griping and complaining spoken of in verses 9-15.
The “estate manager” in this parable is, of course, Jesus. Jesus is saying to them (and now us), “Listen, and let me make you aware of some things you are not seeing clearly. First, you all agreed to work for me for a dollar, so I am honoring my commitment to pay that dollar. Those who came in and started working at 5PM get the same reward as those who toiled all day in the fields….yet some of you complain about that. What you are missing, in heavenly terms, is the fact that all who work in my vineyard, on my behalf, are going to receive the same reward regardless of whether they have served me for fifty years, ninety years…or one day, and that reward is heaven itself. Do you think the reward is unfair?”
The other wonderful things that the workers who murmured missed out on was that they complained about fellow workers….not unlike Christians do today in God’s vineyard.
We say, “I am teaching Sunday school, and that other guy isn’t. Shouldn’t I get more credit….more recognition…more blessings?"
What Jesus wanted them to understand (and now us) is that they should never complain about how long someone works for Him – or about what their “gifts” are. Instead, they should be rejoicing over the fact that those who worked the longest have been blessed longer – knowing they are serving the almighty Himself. They should be asking themselves, “Oh, that I could have been working the Master’s Plan for longer than a day, a week, a year, or five years.”
This story is not finished, because Jesus would like us to know that we should always be content in whatever state we find ourselves – as long as we are working in His vineyard.
Paul, the apostle, sums it up like this: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13.
Now, we learn more from God’s Owner’s Manual – The Bible. Here in Phillipians, God wants us to know that, whatever gifts He gives you (or me) are different, but they are all used so that we might do the jobs necessary to win souls into the kingdom (working in the vineyard of earth).
He allowed Paul to be rich – and allowed him to be in poverty. Paul learned, through trials and times of testing, to trust Christ who “allowed him to do all things, and gave him strength, gifts, tools, resources, to do the job.” When Paul was filthy rich, he was content. When he was dirt poor – he was content.
This author has been a multi-millionaire – and a bankrupt, yet I have learned (through a trip through God’s Boot Camp – described in greater detail in two of my books …Satan’s Games and You Can Take It With You), that I can be content – even happy…when God gives me fortunes – or when He decides to give me just enough to meet my “Daily Bread Needs”. Being content is learned…it isn’t a gift.
When we learn to be content, we discard jealousies – as described in Matthew 20, and we develop a sense of contentment that is then elevated to the word satisfaction. We become satisfied knowing that whatever God gives us for gifts, tools, resources (finances) are to be used to first take care of our daily bread needs (food, clothing and shelter) – which becomes contentment, and then those resources are to be used to further God's plan and purpose for our lives. We then become satisfied with God’s plan for our life, which is to give…and not to receive.
How many of us can truly say, "We are happy? Satisfied? Content? Unfortunately, many are never satisfied. The media conditions us to "want more". It's Satan's game to detract us from what brings true contentment, happiness, peace and joy, and that is found when we are working God's plan and purpose for our life.
Our gifts, tools and finances are to be used to further the work of Christ, which is to do the “Will of the Father”. And what is that will? Jesus spelled it out quite clearly in John 6:40, when He said, “ For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
So, this message all ties together with an attempt on my part to have you develop an "attitude change".
It has been said that we Christians need to develop an “attitude of gratitude”, and I agree…only, I would add that we need to have an attitude of contentment - and gratitude that, no matter when we came into the household of God, we all share the same reward. We all receive the gift of eternal life in heaven, and all that heaven offers, and we should be happy - not jealous, for all who receive that reward with us. Heaven - that wonderful gift of God, is spoken of - and a first-clas tour of it is hosted by me in my book, Heaven-How Do I Get There?.
We also get to pile up treasures on the other side. And, we do it by working the vineyards of the Master on this side.
Someone once said that the graveyard is a sad place….and it is for those who have gone on to a place called Hades…and who await their fate at that Great White Throne of Judgment, but it is equally sad for those who died – never knowing what God’s plan and purpose for their life was.
I almost went that route. In 2007, however, I asked God to show me what His plan and purpose for my life is. Part of that is to share, in writing, many things. Parts of those life-lessons are written here in these articles. They are intended to encourage and to help Christians become better workers in the vineyard of life.
God has a plan and purpose for your life, too. Ask Him what it is…. but, be prepared to go through His “Boot Camp”. It won’t be fun, but you will not trade the end results for all the gold in the earth, believe me!
What makes us rich? It is seeking God’s plan and purpose for our life – then working that plan, and becoming content.
Use the tools, gifts, and resources that God gives (or will give) you, and it will lead toward satisfaction. Don’t look around at others and become envious of what their gifts are. Instead, remember that the master of lies – the great deceiver….the one who wants to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), wants to pull you away from doing God's plan and purpose for your life, but Jesus came to let you have life on this planet…an abundant, content, satisfied life - doing and working His plan.
Your reward is the same as it is for all who serve….eternal life in a place where there is no sorrow, no pain, no illness…and where you will meet loved ones who have gone on before you.
Satan wants to rob you of that blessing of working out God’s plan and purpose for your life. Jesus wants you to enjoy life to the fullest. Which will you choose?
John Tyler, Author
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