Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Standard For Rewards

Matthew 20:1-16

After learning that salvation would require an actual commitment to God, and giving up their own goals and standards, Peter had asked what they would receive for trusting God.  Jesus had stated that everyone would receive far more than they had given up, but that the rewards would not necessarily be the way people expected.  In Matthew 19:30 he stated, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”  He then gave a parable to help them understand what he meant.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.  And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?  They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” (Matthew 20:1-7)

Jesus compared the reward system to that of a landowner who needed his crops harvested.  Early in the morning he went to the marketplace and hired everyone who was there to help harvest his crops, agreeing to pay each one a standard day’s pay for the standard twelve hour day.   He sent them to work, but there was not enough workers, so about nine o’clock he went back to marketplace and found some men who hadn’t found work yet.   He offered to pay them what was right if they would go work the remaining nine hours.

Since there still weren’t enough he bent back about noon and about three pm.  And offered to pay them what was right for the time they would be working.  Finally, about five o’clock he went out and found some men looking for work.  When questioned he found out they had spent the day traveling around and found no work.  They were waiting in the marketplace hoping someone would hire them for the following day.  Though there was only a short time till quitting time the landowner offered to pay them whatever was right if they would go work for the hour that was left.  Though an hours pay wasn’t much, it was better than nothing so they went to work.

“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. ” (Matthew 20:8-10)

“And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. ”  (Matthew 20:8-12)

Under the law, each worker was to be paid daily so he had money to pay that day’s expenses.  The landowner started by paying those who had only worked an hour a full day’s pay.   Those who had worked more hours assumed he would pay them more.  They all received the same pay, and began to gripe that they had done more work during the hottest part of the day.  It wasn’t fair that those who had only worked an hour received the same amount.

“But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:13-15)

The landowner said they had no right to complain.  They had agreed to work for the entire day for a certain amount and that was what they had been paid.  They were not getting cheated.  The men who were not hired until five o’clock still had to have food and clothing and a place to sleep.  It was not their fault they only got to work one hour.  It was the landowner’s right to give them enough so they could pay their bills if he chose to do so.  They had no right to be upset because he did something nice for someone else.

“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)

The rewards in heaven will not be based solely on our visible accomplishments.  Though they had only produced and hour’s work for the landowner, the men who were hired at the eleventh hour had been looking for work all day.  They had done as much as they could in their situation.  A man like Jeremiah, who faithfully preached the word for forty years and no one listened will receive the same reward as a man like Peter who had about three thousand saved on the day of Pentecost.  Though their results were vastly different, each was simply doing what he was supposed to, and both deserve the same reward.  God is not obligated to reward us on what we think we deserve.  His idea of what we deserve may differ greatly from what we think, but as II Corinthians 10:18 says, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”

Instead of worrying about who has the biggest church or won the most people to the Lord, we need to focus on doing our best at the job he has given us.


  1. Praise God that He does not demand "success," but only obedience. We cannot "save" anyone, so we will not be held accountable for the number of people we "led to the Lord," but only for the seed we have sown. Thanks as always for a great post with clear exposition of Scripture.
    God bless,

    1. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who are focused on an appearance of success rather than on obedience.