Read Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16; Galatians 5:6-26; Matthew 21:33-45; John 8:34-37; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 11:11-16
Because no one hired us. In turning the gem this time, I realized that the generous landowner wasn’t the only person looking to hire workers in the marketplace that day. All of the land belongs to this generous master, but he often entrusts his estate—down to the workers hired to tend the land—to tenant farmers who have agreed to serve him. Tenant farmers can make a promise of payment to workers they recruit, but the landowner is the one who pays the actual wages at the end of the day.
In another parable, Jesus reveals that sometimes these tenant farmers are tempted to stray from the purposes of the landowner. In fact, evil tenants may even plot against the landowner to take his estate for themselves, stopping at nothing to satisfy their sinful desires. The temptation of greed will lead them to deceive other workers into serving their selfish purposes, unconcerned about the consequences that will be suffered by workers who intended to serve the landowner all along. They may also beat any workers to death who put up a resistance out of loyalty to the landowner.
Jesus makes it crystal clear to the religious leaders that they are the tenant farmers who have rebelled against the landowner, who represents God, and chosen to follow the devil as their master. We know from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that the fruits produced determine which master the tenant is serving. I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.
Jealousy and selfish ambition are results of the pursuit of sinful desires. Jesus illustrates in the Parable of the Vineyard Workers that those who respond to his Father’s will with jealousy, selfish ambition, or other fruits of sin have been deceived by an evil master. If we respond to the stories Jesus tells with anything other than the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—we have also been deceived.
Servants who are led by the spirit of the generous landowner will eagerly seek to hire as many other workers as possible with an understanding that the salvation he offers is a wage that cannot be prorated. All who show up with a desire to receive that wage are eligible because of the landowner’s abundance and generosity.
Those who have graciously served the generous landowner from the beginning have shared in the harvest as their reward. The proper fruit renders rewards like joy, peace that passes understanding, mutual love, and a God-given purpose.
Those who respond with jealousy or other sinful fruits are the ones who, whether they realize it or not, still have the chance to be hired at the very end of the day. The words of Jesus hide this truth in plain sight; So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.
The jealous ones can still be hired, but first they must leave their wicked masters and humbly return to the generous landowner to receive the day’s wage. This last-minute saving grace will transform their jealousy into great relief—a relief that will be their reward at the time they choose to accept it. It is not God’s will to punish those who have been deceitfully led astray to commit crimes for which they had no intent, even those responsible for the murder of His Son. At the end of the day and no matter what time we arrived, all of us who show up will celebrate the opportunity to receive the wage of salvation together. Salvation is the generous gift of living in the presence and love of God, both in this lifetime and for the rest of eternity.