The Late Comers

The Late Comers

Others in Matthew, class 10: Matthew 20:1-16 – The Late Comers

Generally, this parable is referred to as “The Laborers in the Vineyard” or “The Vineyard Workers.” Because we are focusing “The Others” we title it “The Late Comers.” Given the outcome of the parable, a good title would be, “The Parable of the Generous Master.”

There are bookend statements to this parable: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mt. 19:29, and “So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Note the change in phrase order in those statements).

Some phrases to focus on:
“The kingdom of heaven is like” – To whatever extent the church and kingdom relate, it is worth observing that both the good and bad in this story, the grace of the master and the jealousy some vineyard workers, is present in the church.

“No one has hired us” – The pool of workers had been picked over by all the various masters looking for vineyard workers. These are the ones no one wanted to hire. Who are regarded as the least helpful, valuable, and wanted among the vineyard workers? And how do those people feel, being aware of that?

“Pay them their wages, beginning with the last.” – In that the last one hour workers were given a full day’s wage, and given it first, we must note that grace can be scandalous.

“They thought they would receive more.” – The early workers had made a deal for a denarius for a day and had worked all day. When they saw the late comers getting a denarius, they thought they would receive more. On what basis? Fairness? There are times people would rather see fairness than grace.

“You have made them equal to us” – Yes. And, this gets to the heart of our problem with “others.”

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” – Sometimes translated “no injustice” or “I am not treating you unfairly.” Many of us tend to compare our circumstances to that of others, and then be resentful and bitter though our circumstances are blessed, too.

“Do you begrudge my generosity?” – This is the point of the whole parable. The early birds begrudged generosity to the latecomers.

To whom might this parable apply?

1st century Jewish jealousy over acceptance of Gentiles?
People with long family heritages at church versus newcomers?
Longtime Christians and deathbed confessors?
The every-time-the door-is-open-attendee in contrast to the Sunday morning only?
In the classic 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work formula, the 20% compared to the rest?

For the dedicated kingdom workers, how does this parable speak to how…
God is seen?
Kingdom work is perceived?
Grace is valued?
Others are treated?