Study 6 THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD
TEN OF OUR LORD’S PARABLES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Matthew 20:1-16
The parables of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-28), the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), were all related by the Lord to emphasise three aspects of Christian service. It is the third of these parables that we will study, and notice in verse 1 that the Landowner is our Lord Himself, and the Workers He sent into His vineyard represent all who have been saved (Matthew 1:21), chosen (John 16:16), and commissioned by Him (Matthew 9:38). There are seven fundamental lessons relating to our service.
1. The Lord’s vineyard is very large in its proportions.
Because it is large, many workers are needed. See how many times the Landowner went out to appoint workers - verses 1, 3, 5, 6. How vast the field of service is which the Lord calls us into! The world is our parish (John 3:16; Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8); and His business extends right around the whole of it. There is a great need for God’s people today to get a worldwide missionary vision because we can be very local and parochial in our concept of the Lord’s work. But it is an encouragement for any Christian worker to be reminded that he or she is working in a part of the Lord’s vast vineyard. What a privilege and what a responsibility to be a worker!
2. Workers are urgently needed in the Lord’s vineyard.
It was so in the parable; it is so today. Look up Matthew 9:37; John 4:35. When we think of its size, how few workers there are!
- (1) The need for labourers is great in the continent of Europe. In our churches and Sunday schools, the need for born again, soul-winning workers is very great. In many ways it constitutes the most needy mission field in the world today. Millions live and die in Europe without a true knowledge of the love of God and of the way of salvation.
- (2) In other continents the need is vast - where the darkness of heathenism, superstition and ignorance abound.
Today there is a manpower shortage in the Kingdom of Heaven! Every Christian, everywhere, should be fully engaged in active service for the Lord in these desperately needy days – either by prayer (Matthew 9:38), or by preaching (Acts 5:42) - or by both (Acts 6:4).
3. All kinds of workers are needed by the Lord in His vineyard.
Because the field is so great, the variety of workers needed is also great. This fact leaves us all without excuse, because there is some valuable job of work we can all do.
For example, the Lord needs:
- (1) preachers who are used by their Spirit-filled preaching.
- (2) Christian authors and teachers who use the printed word.
- (3) people of prayer ‘behind the scenes’.
- (4) workers who visit and use their practical skills (Acts 10:38).
- (5) stewards of the Lord’s money, seeking to extend His work.
To all of us the Lord says - Revelation 3:8!
4. The need for workers is urgent because the period of work is short.
In this parable the period for service was twelve hours. Look up John 4:35, and compare John 9:4. We also have a day in which to work for the Lord - look up 2 Corinthians 6:2 - the Day of Grace. Notice the workers were called at different times:-
- (1) Some early in the morning (verse 1) - the Apostles?
- (2) Others at the third hour (verse 3) - the first and second century Christians?
- (3) Still others at the sixth hour (verse 5) - the Reformers?
- (4) Still others at the eleventh hour (verse 6) - twenty-first century witnesses?
We are workers of the eleventh hour! All the signs of the times - religious, political and Jewish - tell us that it is almost the Midnight hour. Doors of opportunity are closing in many parts of the world - look up 1 Corinthians 7:29.
5. The sphere of work is indicated by divine appointment.
Each worker is personally called and directed where and how to work. None are self-appointed. Note in verses 4 and 7 that He sent them out. Compare Acts 8:29; 9:11; 10:19; 13:1-4; Isaiah 6:1-8. When the Landowner went out at the eleventh hour and asked, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” (verse 6), they replied, “Because no-one has hired us” (verse 7). It was then that the Landowner said, “You also go …” (verse 7). There was a sense in which the workers were right in standing and waiting. How could they be otherwise until the Landowner had commissioned them to work? How can we work for the Lord until He has directed us?
6. There are some great dangers that face workers in the Lord’s vineyard.
Consider the following:-
- (1) Idleness (verse 6). What a temptation to be slack, careless and half-hearted in the Lords work. Look up Galatians 6:9.
- (2) Jealousy (verse 10) - the Devil’s master-stroke among the Lord’s workers!
- (3) Criticism (verse 15) - criticism of the Lord and of His dealings.
- (4) Murmurings (verse 11). How often we grumble! How discontented we are (Hebrews 13:5)!
- (5) Discouragement. This is also suggested in the parable.
7. Our service will be rewarded on the basis of quality, and not quantity.
The Lord requires faithfulness and not necessarily (as judged by human standards) success. Look up Psalm 126:6; Matthew 25:21; 1 Corinthians 4:2.