The disciple Peter asked Jesus what reward they would get for leaving everything behind to follow him. Jesus then offered the parable about hiring workers for a vineyard. The vineyard owner recruited people throughout the day, so the workers toiled for different amounts of time. The ones who worked all day were really annoyed at the end of the day when they discovered that those who had only worked for the last hour received the same pay as them. The owner said I have a right to do as I wish with my money. He concluded the parable by saying the mysterious ‘the first will be last and the last will be first’. Matthew 20:1-16
Reflection on Matthew 20:1-16
In this parable, like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Vineyard Owner represents God and demonstrates how he freely offers the gift of grace.
This parable takes a bit of analysis because I don’t think there is a trade union in the country that would agree with the Landowner’s terms of trading, by paying a man who has worked all day the same amount as a man who just worked the last hour of the day.
But God doesn’t make contracts with us that are open to bargaining for a better deal or just reward.
God offers us a relationship, not business arrangements. Because a just reward separates us from the rewarder, ‘Take what is yours and go!’, the vineyard owner in the parable said to those who grumbled – in other words, the agreed debt is paid, and our relationship concluded.
God offers us his ongoing unconditional love and grace in covenants – in which he promises us everything – just, everything.
There are no inner circles – no one is more loved or important to God than anyone else. And God does not have chosen favourites, because each one of us is uniquely special to him and treasured beyond our wildest dreams. You can read more about this parable here.
Jesus concluded the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard by saying ‘the last will be first and the first will be last’, meaning through faith in Christ we will all receive the same reward so long as we do our best.
The YouTube link below depicts a real-life situation of a father showing his unstinting love for his son at an extremely difficult time. The love that God, our father in heaven offers us, is mirrored in the selfless love the father offered his athlete son in this video.
The three articles below in this series offer examples of the ways in which God loves us: