The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Landowner

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.  He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 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.’ 9 The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour 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 men 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, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man 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 Kingdom of Heaven parables have taken a turn from how precious is the Kingdom to how righteous it is.  As Jesus presses onward to the Cross, His urgency to talk about Kingdom matters takes on an increasingly somber and pointed tone.

The whole issue of fairness has been in the media lately.  Is it fair that illegal immigrants would be simply granted–by political tinkering–what those who have waited patiently in the legal process have not yet received?  Is it fair that young black men are viewed with greater caution whereas young white men less so?  Is it fair that some people have great jobs, great upbringings, and great homes while others do not have such privilege?

Let’s make one thing very clear: God cares a whole lot less about human ideas of equality and fairness than He does about Kingdom ideas of righteousness and grace.

Human ideas of equality and fairness always involve horizontal comparisons:  man-to-man, woman-to-woman, or man-to-woman.

God’s idea of equality and fairness results in one thing: all humans perish.

God doesn’t want equality of outcome and fairness for us.  Furthermore, He doesn’t want plain-old-justice for us because that would mean we’d all be in hell instead of any of us in the Kingdom.  Man-to-man and woman-to-woman, every human being is a sinner and rightfully deserving of eternal separation from a holy God.

You want what’s coming to you? 


That’s about it.

That’s why God, being rich in mercy and caring about His Image and His glory, decided that equality of outcome, fairness, and justice weren’t enough.  There needs to be righteousness and grace to cover us.  His generosity overflows.

To the first worker in the field, because he’d seen what the last hired received, he felt like he was owed more, maybe about 11 hours-worth more.  There was an arrogance that said he knew better than the landowner, never mind that one denarius was his own contractual agreement.

Yes, God can do what He wants with money and with people.  He can choose to give some prosperity and education, hiring them first—as in the parable—even though the hard work in the heat of the day might make them feel like self-made men who were owed what they get.  Payment, not grace.  All the work, all the compensation, NONE of the spiritual blessing of knowing dependence upon God.

He can choose to give others the more spiritual existence of knowing they had been waiting all day and therefore, they might be more acutely aware of their depending on the grace and mercy of God.  Thankful for having been hired.  Thankful for such generosity and kindness.  All grace and payment as the cherry on top!

God always does what is right (v.4), yes?

We get ourselves in trouble when we begin horizontal comparisons which lead only to bitterness, envy, jealousy, resentment, anger, and hate.  Do you realize that the first horizontal comparison is what led to the first murder?  That’s why God says that sin is crouching at our doors but we must master it.  We master sin by honoring God instead of seeking the upper hand on our brothers.

It is far better to see that the Kingdom ideas of mercy, righteousness, and grace require our looking to the LORD to see that the real blessing is often upside down to what might be logical to us.  Jesus says (v. 16) “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

kingdom of heaven is like a landowner

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on July 18, 2013

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