Matthew 20:1-16 Parable of the Householder

Last week we saw that Peter and the disciples had forsaken all and were guaranteed thrones, a one hundred fold return, eternal life, and persecution. Then the Lord said that the first would be last and the last first in Matt 19:30.

In this lesson, the Lord goes on to explain what he meant in verse 30. He gave them the parable of the householder. He used a very common illustration in a parable about a man hiring laborers to work in his vineyard. Ultimately, he was showing them that they were the first laborers hired in the vineyard and that there would be many more to follow, with some coming at the very end of the “day.”

He explained that the late-comers are going to be paid the same as these disciples (a penny, thrones, a one hundredfold return, etc). The disciples are not to get mad about the Lord paying them the same as the late-comers since the vineyard is his and the wages are his.

Putting the parable together doctrinally, we get the following:

Verse 1 – the man is the Lord as in Matt 13:44-45
He is the householder Heb 3:1-6
He hires laborers because many are needed Matt 9:37-38
The vineyard is Israel Is 5:1-7

Verse 2 – the penny is a day’s wage capable of buying enough bread to feed 25 men plus their wives and children (in Mk 6:37, 200 pennyworth of bread feeds 5000 men plus women and children).
The householder “sends” his laborers into his vineyard Matt 9:38.

Verses 3-4 – the third hour is 9:00 am.
Men that were hired later in the day agreed to work for “whatsoever is right.” So, the right pay is left to the judgment of the employer not the employee (unlike you see in labor negotiations today).

Verse 5 – the sixth and ninth hours are noon and 3:00 pm.
Examples of staggered hiring in God’s dealing with Israel (the vineyard) are as follows:
Peter, James, John and Andrew were hired first (Matt 4:18-22).
The twelve were sent in Matt 10
Seventy more were sent in Lk 10
He appeared to above 500 at once in 1 Cor 15
In Acts 7, Stephen was hired but worked only a short time before he was killed
In Acts 9, Paul was hired
In Acts 18, Apollos was hired
In 2 Tim 4, we find that Mark returned to work after some time off
In Rev, we find that John worked the longest day of them all.

Verses 6-7 – the eleventh hour was 5:00 pm.
Considering that the kingdom of heaven is the earthly, literal kingdom of Jesus and the vineyard is Israel, then the eleventh hour would include the tribulation (a short time at the end of the day when men only have a minimal amount of time left to work in the vineyard). They get to work for “whatsoever is right” also.

Verse 8 – explains Matt 19:30. The Lord pays the last laborers first and the first laborers last.

Verse 9 – “Whatsoever is right” turns out to be a penny, which seems to be high. You would assume that “right” would be 1/11th of a penny for the men hired at the end of the day.

Verses 10-12 – the laborers who worked the longest day reasonably expected that if the guys who worked an hour received a penny, they should at least receive more than what they agreed upon earlier in the day.

Verse 13 – the Lord reminds them that they had a deal.

Verses 14-15 – The Lord decided that one hour was worth a penny and one day was worth a penny. Was that lawful? Yes (though it would not be tolerated today – the courts would be involved sure enough). Was their eye evil? Yes; envy often involves money (Matt 6:23).

Verse 16 – Notice that the tribulation saints who are martyred (the last) will receive thrones just like the disciples who were hired into the vineyard first. Compare Rev 20:4 with Matt 19:28.
“For many be called but few chosen” is not predestination. He wanted them all working in the vineyard (like Matt 22:1-14). But they didn’t all work; he only chose those who did.

Spiritually, we can take this day and apply it to the church age. The first part of the day started with the book of Acts and the last part of the day is going on right now as we await the arrival of the Lord. We have the opportunity, then, to go to work for the Lord right now and receive a full day’s wage for working what’s left of our day before the rapture. There is a tremendous incentive for you to go to work for the Lord if you have been sitting around in the marketplace “all the day idle.” Get to work for the Lord!!