Without laborers, a vineyard is useless.
One of the principal models Jesus used to explain the church is the vineyard. As beautiful as a vineyard may be to the eye, it is really a business. The vineyard succeeds when it produces a product—new wine. This model has many spiritual applications:

  • Jesus and the Believer as the True Vine and the branches,
  • Jesus as the Lord of the vineyard,
  • Believers as workers in the vineyard, and
  • New Wine—a fresh move of the Holy Spirit—as the product of the vineyard.

Although many lessons are drawn from this model, in this story Jesus emphasizes the laborers in the vineyard.

The Landowner
The Landowner went into the marketplace to find laborers to bring in the harvest in his vineyard. He made his first recruiting trip early in the morning and his final trip very late in the day—four trips in all. To each group he promised fair payment for their work. When he found an idle group standing in the marketplace very late in the day, he asked them why. Their answer is so important to the story.

“Because no one hired us.”

There was work to be done and people to do the work but the connection to make it happen had never been made. He hired them on the spot.

At the End of the Day
When the long work day was finally over, the Landowner instructed his steward to pay the workers from the last hired to the first. When the 11th hour group got their fair wage, the others assumed since they had worked longer, they would get more. They did not; they got the fair wage they signed on for. The longer term workers complained to the Landowner. He answered that he had done them no wrong; he paid them the agreed upon amount. This answer did not silence their grumbling but it settled the issue. The Landowner was within his rights and had cheated no one.

The Lesson
What is Jesus saying to us? We have all come to the work of His vineyard at different times in our lives. We can trust God to do for us as He has promised. He does not lie and it is not in Him to cheat. We must not compare God’s blessings upon other laborers with what He is doing for us. This illegitimate calculation will only lead to discontent and strife. At the end of the day, all will be beyond question.

Kingdom Measurements
In the Vineyard of the Lord, things are measured by heavenly standards. Here, “the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” The important thing is the work. The Vineyard must be tended by skillful hands. The vines and their branches laden with fruit must be cared for in all weathers. When the time for the harvest comes, every laborer becomes a harvester. The crop must be brought in and processed. The Vineyard is the only source for the New Wine of the fresh move of the Spirit of God.

Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius 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 to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Lord Jesus, You are the owner of the Vineyard. Thank You for inviting me to be a laborer in Your work. I am not distracted by worries over my compensation; that is in Your capable hands. Lord, You said that You were the Vine and I am a branch. Holy Spirit, make my connection to the Vine secure so that His life flows through me. I want to be a fruitful branch! You promised me this happy, productive life in Your Vineyard. Move among us, O Holy Spirit, so those who see us may see Jesus. For the Harvest, Lord! Amen.

The Wine of the Kingdom
Words and Music: Graham Kendrick

1. One shall tell another And He shall tell his friend
Husbands wives and children Shall come following on
From house to house in families Shall more be gathered in
And lights will shine in every street So warm and welcoming

Come on in and taste the new wine
The wine of the kingdom
The wine of the kingdom of God
Here is healing and forgiveness
The wine of the kingdom
The wine of the kingdom of God

2. Compassion of the Father Is ready now to flow
Through acts of love and mercy We must let it show
He turns now from His anger To show a smiling face
And longs that men should stand beneath
The fountain of His grace.


3. He longs to do much more than Our faith has yet allowed
To thrill us and surprise us With His sovereign power
Where darkness has been darkest The brightest light will shine
His invitation comes to us It’s yours and it is mine


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

4 thoughts on “May 14 “Laborers”

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