This parable teaches that God is generous to the undeserving. In the situation of Jesus’ ministry, this was crucial in two ways. First, the Gentiles to whom He reached out to were like the workers paid beyond their just desserts. God’s Jewish children had long suffered and endured, partly because they carried God’s name. Gentiles were new to the circle of grace and had not had to persevere through opposition. Jesus is condemning Jewish resentment about Gentile inclusion by “putting the last first”.
Second, we are reminded that God’s decision to place us in His vineyard and bless us is never deserved! We are all undeserving of His rewards, which are always out of proportion to our contributions and are always given despite our shortcomings.
Think about how the idea of unmerited favor, or grace, changes the character of the religious life.
FAMILY TIME— Families illustrate undeserved favor. Parents welcome and provide for children before the children can contribute anything to the family, and they do so despite the “cost” of kids. Talk about this.
MATTHEW 20:13 | EXODUS 20:19
Our work is about what we do with our time, our energy, our ability, and our resources. If we are paid fairly, work diligently, save and spend wisely, and share generously, we will know contentment and will be honoring God with our labor. In the world of work, rewards can be arbitrary. The same job can yield different incomes in different places. The market, and profitability, and management strategy and timing will impact salary scales and arrangements, so initial wages differ over time. The well connected often out earn the most productive. Fairness is important, but unfairness should not make us unduly resentful, if we are focused on honoring God with our labor. In the final analysis, we work for Him, and pleasing Him must be our goal.
Notice the Sabbath command is also a work command. Which do you do best? Work diligently? Save and spend wisely? Share generously?
FAMILY TIME— Talk about what it means to work for God, not just our employers.