The Surprise Reward
The Unexpected Gift
“So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
The day started as any other day; workers came to the place of business to look for someone to hire them. Quickly, they were hired to work for the standard wage of one denarius. Pleased with the wage, they promptly went to the fields to begin the work. However, the owner of the Vineyard realized that the job needed more laborers for the harvest was great, but the number of available workers was few. Realizing his need, he repeatedly returned to the market to search for more workers. Five times, he searched for workers, and five times, he hired those who were available.
As was the requirement of the Old Testament law, the man paid each his wage. However, he started with the person hired last. Surprisingly, he paid the person who only worked one day a full denarius. Seeing what he paid those who only worked one hour, the other workers were excited. If he paid those who worked one hour a denarius, they concluded that he would pay them one denarius for each hour they worked. However, to their surprise, the owner paid each one denarius. Everyone was given an equal play regardless of the difference in time spent in the field. When those hired last saw what the owner was doing, they grumbled. Even though they agreed to work for a denarius, they felt they deserved more. They were not complaining about the wage, for he had paid them a fair wage and one that they agreed to. What they were complaining about was the generosity and grace of the owner. They all started the day needing a day’s work, for without a full day’s wage, they would lack the necessary money to meet their basic living needs. For the owner to pay everyone a full wage was an act of grace and compassion.
This parable serves to highlight the nature of Christ’s kingdom. The owner represents Christ and his kingdom, while the workers represent his followers. Often, we feel that we are worthy of more blessings. We tend to see God’s blessing as something we have earned through service. We often think that when we get to heaven, there will be degrees of rewards, that those who have served God longer and achieved greater results will receive a greater blessing than others who have struggled in their faith. While we affirm that we are saved by faith and grace alone, we often conclude that the blessings of God in the present and the rewards of God in the future are based upon what we have done. However, this parable points to the fact that God responds and rewards everyone equally. While we may have different responsibilities in the church today and in his kingdom in eternity, these are based upon God’s grace rather than our merit.
The ones who labored all day accused the owner of being unfair. What they failed to recognize, and what we fail to acknowledge, is that our salvation and rewards are not based on our merit. In the end, no one has anything to offer God. None of us deserve any “payment” from God. Our salvation is based solely upon his grace. If God acted solely upon merit rather than grace, no one would not obtain salvation. Therefore, we have no room for pride. We cannot take pride when we are more involved in the church, and our ministry achieves more significant results. Nor should we feel slighted by God when our acts of service seem to accomplish little. The results of our ministry are not earned, they are graciously given and determined by the sovereign working of God. In the end, there is no room for pride. Do you sometimes take pride that God seems to bless you more than others? Recognize that you are still undeserving and thus give the glory to God. Do you get discouraged when others seem to succeed more than you and their ministry flourishes while yours flounders? Take heart, for the results are not based upon our merit but on God’s sovereign plan. Your struggles are not because of a “lack of faith” but because God is working individually to accomplish his plan, and in the end, you will receive an equal reward.