Ok, you still remember the question I was dealing with, right? Just in case you forgot, the question went thus: Is there any need to be faithful to God, since someone that is unfaithful can still come back to God, and through mercy even overtake those who have been faithful? Even looking at the parable of the lost sheep, and those labourers that were employed in the morning, evening and even the 11th hour?
Now, let us talk briefly (I hope so), about the 2 parables: THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP, and THE PARABLE OF THE LABOURERS IN THE VINEYARD.
Part of the challenges associated with interpreting the Bible generally, and the sayings of our Lord Jesus is that most times we take them out of context. We seem to wrung out revelations from them, even when the sayings are to a large extent quite plain to those He was addressing. As a result, we end up making it difficult to understand or rightly apply the passage. A good example of this is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In the real context of the story: Lazarus was the hero of the story and the rich man was the villain. Abraham’s bosom does not necessarily mean that Lazarus did not have a house and so had to be carried to Abraham’s house. Rather, it was a way of saying that Lazarus was in a place of rejoicing; as the highest dream of any God-fearing Jew, whether rich or poor was to be in ‘Abraham’s bosom’. Hence, the parable was not in any way said by the Lord to deride Lazarus for his poverty, as is being popularly bandied today. Not like what is being said about poverty and prosperity is not true, but we can say all those things without necessarily having to take the parables of the Lord out of context.
Now, to the Parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15, the parable begins thus: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying,” (Luke 15:1-3)
This parable was simply Jesus drawing a contrast between the ‘sinners’ who He was accused of receiving and eating with, and the ‘righteous or just’ Pharisee who has no need of repentance. So also were the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. They were not contrasts between two Christians: one who is ‘faithful and never missing’ and one who is ‘lost and needs to be found’. If we interpret it thus, we can then say that to give heaven great joy, you should get lost and then let yourself be found, that way you will be a reason for constant joy in heaven; while if you are faithful to God, heaven will not rejoice much over you. An absurd thought, isn’t it? Rather, the parables contrast the Pharisee who considers himself so righteous and sees no need of falling before the Lord in plea for mercy, and the ‘sinners’ that Jesus came to seek and to save. You get that?
Now, in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20, there are a few key issues we need to get right. Now, forget about the chapter demarcations, and lump Matthew 19 and 20 together, you will notice that Jesus was still responding to Peter’s question, “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27). Though Jesus answered the question earlier on with a promise of many things in this life, and also eternal life, but there was a need for Him to tackle the attitude of ‘what is in it for me?’ when it comes to following Him and working for Him. That was the spirit behind the parable.
Now, I want to place some tit-bits to note concerning this parable:
1. The first labourers argued and got a particular wage payment for their services for the day. I wonder what would have happened had they simply said, “Sir, please pay us whatever you deem fit?” They simply did not trust the Lord of the Estate to be fair to them, so they had to hanker out their pricing before they began work.
2. There was still need for more labourers in the vineyard. The first labourers there could never have got the whole work done. Had it been the owner of the vineyard had more than enough, there would never have been need to recruit more labourers.
3. The latter labourers in the vineyard came late simply because “no one hired them”. It was not because they were lazy or refused to work, or were incompetent. The simply had no one to hire them.
4. The latter labourers felt so unworthy that they could not place any price for their labour. They were willing to place themselves at the mercy of the owner of the vineyard who simply said to them, “I will pay you whatsoever is right”.
5. The reward of the labourers is not a type of the end of the age, or the judgment day in heaven. Because in heaven, there will be no murmuring (remember no sin will enter there).
6. Note that the main point of this article is not to buttress whatever the picture of coming late or coming early means for the kingdom of God, it was to use that picture of a seeming injustice to showcase negative attitudes of men in God’s earthly kingdom which is not well-received by God Himself. Remember the good man of the house said to one of the grumbling men, “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).
7. I will leave you to use these little tit-bits to walk through the rest of the parable yourself, but permit me to suggest that it was the understanding of this parable that enabled the Apostles of the Lamb to welcome with open hands and sincere hearts a man like Paul, who was not there at the beginning of their journeying with Jesus, but to whom God gave massive revelations to lay the foundation and pillars of the Faith.
So, whatever you may think about this parable, the Lord was not glorifying coming late over coming early to His work. He was simply saying, be content with what God gives you, and don’t try to wonder and grumble over the gifts He gives someone you feel you are better than, or that you began the race of God before him/her. Don’t try to place bargains with God. Trust the Owner of the Vineyard to pay you whatsoever is right, and you will not have to enter into a grumbling attitude, over what God is doing for your brethren..
I hope I helped.
God bless you.