Opening Prayer

Mighty God, help me today to learn to be confident without being arrogant, sensitive without being overwhelmed, and faithful to you.

Read MATTHEW 20:1–16

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“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.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon 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 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, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one 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.”

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  1. Matthew 20:2 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


What an honor it is to serve God. Thank him for his lavish care and generous provision. ‘…if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.’1

Think Further

Jesus next tells a parable. The picture would be familiar to Israelites in a land of vineyards and from scriptures like Isaiah 5:1–7. The wealthy landowner needs workers for his fields. He goes to the marketplace and employs the unemployed. The wages are agreed: one denarius, a day’s working wage (vs 2,13). More workers are always needed, for ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’.2 So, through the day, more workers are hired and promised a fair wage (vs 3,4). Even as the day draws to a close, more people are employed (vs 5–8).

When the day is done, each receives their denarius, enough for their basic needs. The reaction of those who had done more work is at one level natural: they worked longer and feel hard done by. Yet they knew the deal and their complaint fails to acknowledge the vineyard owner’s generosity, in his preparedness to provide work and provision for the unemployed, who would otherwise be destitute. The parable is full of lessons. The field in which we work, the church and world, is God’s property. When we are called to be disciples, we are summoned to labor for God in his mission. More workers will join us, for ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’.3 God delights in inviting the unemployed to work for him. The story also tells us that God takes care of us, his workers, rewarding us evenly and generously, giving us what we need to survive. Ultimately, all his people receive the denarius of eternal life as a free gift. In the meantime, we work hard, content, for as God clothes the flowers and feeds the birds, he provides for us.4 We delight that others join us, even to the last minute, to receive eternal life.


Pray for forgiveness where we have lapsed into grumbling and failed to acknowledge God’s generosity. Rejoice that we are employed by God. Continue to work hard for him.

Closing prayer

Loving Lord, I rejoice today in your large-heartedness. I’m thankful that your grace is not limited to my understanding of fairness. I bless your name.

1 Tim 6:8 Matt 9:37 Matt 9:37 Matt 6:19–34

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Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by kingstar

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