Mattew 20 verses 1 –16
This parable is not as contrived as it may seem. The Palestinian grape harvest ripened toward the end of September or just before the onslaught of the seasonal rains. The trick was to pick the ripening grapes just before the heavy rains ruined the grapes still on the vine. The window was often small and so the harvest was often fast and furious and always labour intensive.
Grape pickers were paid a few pennies a day. They had far less security than did slaves. They were hourly workers and the poorest of the poor. Hunger was a daily companion and to lose a day’s work could be critical.
They gathered in the market places early in the morning. The work- day began at 6 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. Thus the third hour was 9a.m and the 6th hour was noon and so on. Not only grape pickers came to the market but hourly workers of every description. On a slow day, Joseph and Jesus might well have resorted to going there to get work.
During the harvest, many were needed and even the elderly and the infirm, if they stuck it out, might well get an hour or two of precious employment.
In terms of strict justice, the fewer hours a man worked, the less pay he should have received. But the master knew that a few pennies a day afforded minimal subsistence and that if a worker went home with less, his family would suffer true hardship, and so he chose to go beyond strict justice and embraced social justice.
Now rather than drag you through a number of obvious modern applications of this parable, allow me to leave you with a few conclusions.
God does not care whether you come first or last…only that you have crossed the finish line.
All of us, no matter when we turn to Him, are equally precious to God.
For God there are no long-time citizens to honor and recent immigrants to tolerate.
God does not resent new blood or the rise of a new generation.
Whether old or young, when, in death, we come to Christ we are equally dear to Him and life has ended neither too late nor too soon.
What God gives us is never PAY but always GIFT…Not REWARD but always GRACE.
This is the God in whose image we are created. Do we recognize ourselves?