The Workers In The Vineyard 23 AUGUST 2020 | Traditional Service | Rev Stanley Chua

The Workers In The Vineyard

23 AUGUST 2020 | Traditional Service

Rev Stanley Chua

Scripture Passage: MATTHEW 20:1-16 (NIV)


(Click on video below)


Summary | During the annual harvest time in Israel, daily rated workers (the lowest rung in society) would gather in the marketplace hoping to find work in order to feed their families. They are often destitute and desperate to be hired for the day.

Viewed on the basis of equity and fairness, the parable appears unfair that people are paid the same regardless of the number of hours worked. This is especially so when the owner of the vineyard is God who is known to be fair and just.

Many Bible teachers tried to explain the “injustice” but there is nothing in the parable to support their explanations. V15 stresses the generosity of the vineyard owner who has the right to do what he wants with his money. Those who protested were rebuked for being envious.

The Bible teaches that there is reward for our work (1 Cor 3:8, Jn 4:36). In the preceding passage, Peter asked Jesus what will there be for them who had left everything to follow Him (Mt 19:27). Jesus’s reply in V28-30 affirms that they would be abundantly rewarded. His concluding statement that the first shall be the last and the last will be the first is also the concluding statement in this parable. It is clear that Jesus is not talking about economic employment, salvation (which cannot be earned) nor reward for service but about those who enter God’s kingdom and their attitude in service.

We need to understand ministry and service in the light of God’s grace to us. Everything we receive comes from the grace of God. Just as the vineyard owner is under no obligation to hire any of the workers, God can easily use someone else or His angels to serve. So we ought to serve with grateful hearts and rejoice in the opportunity to serve. We should not measure our worth by what we do or the sacrifice we make, nor think of rewards and compare with others for this will lead to envy. What if you are the worker hired last?

Two groups of workers:

1. Wannabe workers – serve on their own terms, complain when things don’t go their way, begrudge others with different views, view their ministry as the only important one, take every opportunity to air their disappointments and frustrations, quit serving to show their unhappiness.

2. Humble servants – understand God’s grace, serve quietly, diligently, faithfully and sacrificially without complaining or begrudging others, willing to serve as needed and step aside when requested, don’t quit because of frustration and disappointment, grateful to serve.

Not every person who begins early will inevitably be the last but there is the danger of serving with the wannabe spirit. The truly desirable position is to start early and work with all your might, not for reward but out of love and gratitude.

(Sermon Notes by Woo Choi Yin )


1. What is the most common reaction when people read this parable? Why?

2. According to the speaker, how should we interpret this parable correctly?

3. What is the main lesson of this parable? Share some of the insights you have received from the main lesson as explained by the speaker.

4. Share what you have learned from the speaker’s explanation of the verse, “the last will be first and the first will be last.”

5. Which aspects of the “wannabe workers or/and humble servants” description surface your present attitude in serving God? According to the speaker, what is the correct attitude and posture that we ought to have when serving God?