The Kingdom of Heaven Likened Unto a Householder and His Laborers


Matt. 20:1-16  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. 2  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3  And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4  And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5  Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6  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? 7  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. 8  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. 9  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12  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. 13  But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16  So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.


I.    A false interpretation.

A.  Applied to sinners individually.  Salvation is the reward of a penny a day.  These sinners come into the Kingdom of God at various times in their lives; some in their youth, some in middle age, and some in old age.

B.   Objections

1.   Verse 6,7 - The workers said they were idle because no man had hired them.  They are blaming God for not saving them, when they are the ones that haven't received Christ.

2.   Verse 11,12 - Is there any old Christian who will complain to God because He has given salvation to some younger people, or that He has given salvation to anybody?

3.   This interpretation is Arminian because salvation is a gift of God, not of works.  The laborers are working for salvation if this interpretation stands.  Verse 1 states that the householder went to hire laborers into his vineyard, not to adopt them into his family.


II.   The Biblically correct interpretation.

A.  The word "for" in the very beginning of Matt. 20:1 is the same word as "because".

1.   We can very practically read Matt. 20:1 "Because the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder..."

2.   When we see the word "because", or "for", we understand there is a reason for that word being there.

B.   If you will go back to Matt. 19, and start reading at least at verse 27-30, (it will probably be better to start reading in verse 1) you will understand that the purpose of the parable is to explain that "many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first."

1.   See Matt. 19:30.  The word "for" in Matt. 20:1 refers back to Matt. 19:30.

2.   See Matt. 20:16.  This verse states the reason Christ gives the parable of the householder and the hours.


III. A detailed explanation.

A.  Householder - God, as the one in control - Matt. 13:37.

1.   The householder is God, or Jesus Christ.

2.   Matt. 13:27 - The parable of the tares and the wheat.

B.   Vineyard - A place of work - Luke 10:14

1.   A piece of land for a specific purpose owned and operated by its rightful owner - Isaiah 5:1-7.

2.   Ahab and Naboth's vineyard - I Kings 21:1-29 (verse 15).

3.   The vineyard of the Lord is the earth and the fulness thereof.

a)   Matt. 21:28 - The parable of the two sons.

b)   Matt. 21:33 - The wicked husbandman.

C.   Laborers - preachers - men entering upon the work of another.

1.   Laborers few - Matt. 9:35-38.

2.   One sows, another reaps - laborers with God - I Cor. 3:6-9.

D.  The day refers to the time of light, or 12 hours available for work.

1.   There is a limited number of hours given to us for laboring to preach the gospel (harvesting the crop).

2.   There is also a limited number of hours given to lost people to respond to the gospel.

3.   Early in the morning - in the beginning of God's dealings with man during the church age (compare Matt. 19:28 with Matt. 20:2).

a)   The day in this parable is referring to the complete time this world will be in existence.

b)   I do not believe the four different times God called men into the vineyard represents any four categories of people, except the following may be considered.

(1)  Those called in the early part of the day - Those called in the early part of time; like Adam and Eve, (those people called during the age of conscience, or when God was dealing with the world through the family.

(2)  Those called in the third hour of the day - The nation of Israel.

(3)  Those called about the ninth hour of the day - The Gentiles in the Lord's church.

(4)  Those called about the eleventh hour of the day - Those called out of the Great tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ.

c)   If the above is considered - this call of God is for service, not for salvation.

d)   John 4:31-38 - Fields white unto harvest - this is true for every age.

E.   There was an agreement given only to the first group of workers.

1.   Verse 2 - The first workers agreed for a penny a day.

2.   Verse 3,4 - The second group of workers agreed to work for whatsoever is right.

3.   Verse 5 - The third and fourth group of workers also agreed to work for whatsoever is right.

4.   Verse 6,7 - The fifth group of workers agreed to work for whatsoever is right.

F.   Verse 6 - All the day idle - when day is closing.

1.   Work in the day light - John 9:1-5.

2.   Christ shall come as a thief in the night - I Thess. 5:2.

G.   Rewards - all gather the same crop, but in different amounts.

1.   Those called by God to be laborers in the beginning of the day start the work.

a)   Those called by God to be laborers after the first group have died out of the earth must build their work upon those gone before.

b)   Those called by God to be laborers after the second group have died out of the earth must build their work upon those gone before.

c)   Those called by God to be laborers after the third group have died out of the earth must build their work upon those gone before.

2.   Why did they complain - They are expecting too much.

a)   They didn't understand that everything belonged to God, and that He would give to each as He considered right.

b)   Rev. 21:4 - All tears are wiped away.  There may very well be some complaints and tears in heaven, but all these will be wiped away at the beginning of eternity, when Christ establishes His new heaven and new earth.

c)   We will have a memory in a spiritual body before all tears are wiped away.