September 4, 2016
In Matthew 20 Jesus told a parable about workers in a vineyard. This parable teaches us some principles about the kingdom of God, and it also teaches us something about the kind of attitude we should have at work.
The key players in this parable are disgruntled workers. You may think that is a redundant term. In the movie Raising Arizona an FBI agent is interviewing a business owner who has been the victim of a crime. The FBI agent asked the owner ~ “Do you have any disgruntled employees?” The business owner says, “They’re all disgruntled! I’m not running a daisy farm!”
A lot of employers feel that way — all employees are terminally unhappy and perpetually disgruntled. And a lot of employees feel that way . . . disgruntled. In fact, people as a whole seem to suffer the same affliction: terminally unhappy, perpetually disgruntled.
Here’s something to remember — and it applies to your relationships, your job, your spiritual life, and every other area of life. Being perpetually disgruntled drains the energy out of your existence and robs you of the joy that should be yours. The most empowering thing you can do is get gruntled. (Is that a word? Isn’t ‘gruntled’ the opposite of ‘disgruntled’?) Regardless, you get my point: stop being disgruntled. It will transform your life.
Let’s take a look at this parable in Matthew 20.
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Stop there for a moment. He agreed to pay them a denarius, which wasn’t bad for a day’s work. The men that were being hired were day-laborers — they were on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder. They didn’t have regular jobs, so every day they went to the marketplace hoping a business owner would hire them for a day. A denarius was a good day’s pay; it was the same wage a Roman soldier received, so from the very beginning the landowner was offering a good and fair deal to his workers.
3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’
5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
This landowner seemed like a good guy, someone who would pay a fair day’s wage. Maybe if you started late, you would only receive a portion of a denarius, but that would be better than going home having received nothing.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
A comment about the workers hired later in the day. Don’t misinterpret their standing around. They weren’t being idle or lazy. They were doing all they could to get hired. If they were lazy they would have gone home; instead, they stayed in the marketplace all day because they wanted to work.
In those days the workers were paid on a daily basis. So, at the end of each work day the workers would line up and they would receive their pay.
8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
Now understand, these guys worked the least! Instead of a 12 hour shift, they worked about 1 hour. So, when we think about it, they should have received a 1/12 partial payment, maybe 10% of a denarius. That would be fair. Instead they received an entire days pay! They must have been ecstatic! And remember the owner is a fair and just owner!
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.
15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
One lesson this parable teaches is about God’s grace. Everyone who comes to Him is accepted on the same level and given the same salvation, whether you’re Billy Graham or a beggar in the street. Every believer receives the same salvation, the same promise of eternal life.
There are some other lessons we can learn in this parable, as I mentioned earlier, lessons that teach us about the kind of attitude we should have in our work life, spiritual life, home life, and on and on. Sometimes we need attitude adjustments.
If we make some adjustments, not only will you notice a big difference in yourself, but others will notice, too. The first attitude adjustment is…
• If you get what you agreed to, accept it with gratitude.
In this parable, the workers who were hired first agreed to work a full day for one denarius — good pay for a day’s work. And at the end of the day, they got exactly what they were told — 1 denarius. That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t because some of the workers received a better hourly rate than they did. Although the amount was the same.
No matter what you do, there will always be someone who has a better deal than you do. Someone who makes more money for what appears to be the same type of work; someone whose working conditions are a little more favorable than yours; someone whose job requirements are a little less demanding than yours. They may have a nicer office, or a better desk or chair, whatever it is, you will always find someone has something you don’t.
I read about a company which hired two staff members at the same time — a man named David – – – – and a woman named Donna. The jobs were different, yet, considered parallel to each other, so the pay was identical.
This was an acceptable agreement until it came time for a job reviews. Some bosses began to say — “David has a higher degree, he’s in charge of more people. There are 4 people in his family and 3 in Donna’s. So, David should get more money.”
And then Donna’s supporters spoke up. “Donna is a single mom and doesn’t have a working spouse, so she should get more money. Donna is older and has been working in this area longer than David. Donna has two Master’s Degrees and David has only has one, so she should get more money.” And on and on.
Suddenly two previously productive staff members became disgruntled and ineffective in doing their jobs because each of them felt like they were being short-changed. So when David got a raise in pay, he was happy — until he found out Donna got the same amount. “It’s not fair; I do more than she does,” he said. And, of course, Donna felt the same way. She was happy with her pay raise until she found out David got the same amount. And the sad thing is, they both became less enthusiastic about their jobs.
This can easily happen. But keep this in mind: if you’re getting what you agreed to – – accept it with gratitude. We need to approach our jobs, our ministries, our marriages, our lives — with a sense of wonder and appreciation – – – for God’s blessing in our lives. A sense of gratitude. If you’re prone to being disgruntled, there will always be someone who’s got a better deal than you. So, strive to be grateful for what you’ve got. Be grateful for the deal you’ve got.
Secondly — and this is closely related to the first principle…
• Focus on what you should be doing, not what others should be doing.
The workers who were hired first became disgruntled because, as we’ve already seen, they weren’t happy with the deal the newer workers were given. Their unhappiness can be traced to a critical attitude towards their employer. They didn’t like the way he was running his business. They wanted to tell him who to hire and when, and how to spend his money. They forgot a crucial truth that many workers forget: the owner is the owner; and they can spend their money the way they want to. And they can run their business their way.
If you have a job — if you work for an individual or a company — I can guarantee this: from time to time your boss will make decisions you disagree with. He or she may hire people you don’t think should be hired. He or she may introduce product lines you don’t think are profitable. He or she may implement procedures you think are stupid. When that happens you’ve got to remember who’s the boss — and who gets to make those decisions.
Your focus should be on doing your job well. Paul gives us a great reminder in Colossians 3:23-24. He said ~
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24
Paul gives us great wisdom – – whatever you do, whatever you do, work for the Lord, not for men. In other words, whatever you’re doing, know your real boss is the Lord. Seek to serve Him, glorify Him, honor Him. Knowing your inheritance, your final paycheck is from the Lord, not man.
If you want to be effective – – – then get your eyes off other people, stop criticizing those in leadership, and focus on doing your job well. The third attitude adjustment is…
• Don’t begrudge another person’s blessing.
The workers who were hired first got a good deal: a day’s pay for a day’s labor. The workers who were hired last got an incredible deal: pay far beyond what they could expect under normal circumstances. Clearly, this was a one-time event. The landowner could not do business like this every day, or else word would get out and soon no one would be willing to work all day — everyone would want to be hired at the end of the day. The landowner couldn’t be so generous every day, but on this day he chose to be, and those who were hired last benefitted from his generosity.
Sometimes that happens. Someone gets a blessing and you don’t. Someone is on the receiving end of generosity, and you’re not. When that happens, here’s how to respond: be glad for them. Celebrate with them. Share in their joy. It’s not every day that a blessing like this comes along. When it does, let them enjoy it.
We may feel, it’s not always fair the way things work out. We may think someone got lucky. They stayed in the office because they were lazy and someone walks in – – – with their mind made up what they were going to buy, and they make a huge sale. They receive a huge commission. And you work harder, but they made a great sale doing nothing . . . and you got nothing!
Sometimes other people receive a windfall. Sometimes they get a blessing from out of nowhere. They receive it and you don’t. It doesn’t happen every day, so when it happens, let them enjoy it and be glad for them.
The fact is – – – you receive your own windfall from time to time. You get your own undeserved blessings. But we have a tendency not to count those as much as we count the ones that others get . . . because we think those are the ones we should have received.
Begrudging the blessings others receive will not increase the number of blessings in your own life. Nor will it diminish their blessing. All it does is make you miserable. So when the people around you get more than you think they deserve, be happy for them. Resenting someone else’s success does not increase your own prospects for success, so when someone else gets a blessing from out of nowhere, don’t begrudge or be disgruntled. Congratulate them and share in their joy.
We’ve looked at three principles that we can learn from the workers who were hired first. For the final principle, I want us to look at it from the perspective of those who were hired last.
• No matter what happens, position yourself for possibilities.
As I mentioned earlier, these were day-laborers — the lowest class of worker in their society. They didn’t have regular jobs, and each day they were dependent upon landowners to hire them to work for one day at a time. In this parable, some of these men went to the marketplace early in the morning seeking employment and were not hired. So what did they do? Did they say, “Well, it looks like I won’t have any luck today, so I may as well go home?”
No, they continued to wait in the marketplace. Even though they were “standing around doing nothing” they weren’t avoiding work; they were waiting for the opportunity to work. That’s why they remained in the marketplace, just in case someone came along later in the day willing to hire more workers. These men knew if they went home they would never get hired, but if they stayed in the marketplace, maybe, just maybe, someone would offer them a job for the day. And even a few hours’ pay was better than nothing at all.
So they kept themselves positioned for possibilities. And what happened? They got more than they could have hoped for: a full day’s pay for a brief stint of work.
Keep yourself positioned for possibilities. If you give up and quit as soon as it looks like you’re not going to get the breaks you need or think you deserve, you close the door on the good things that can happen in your life.
Make sure you’re always in a position where God can bless you. Even when it’s late in the day and it seems like everyone is getting hired but you, stay in the marketplace. Keep yourself available in case God chooses to call on you in the eleventh hour.
Holiness at work, in your job, at home, at school, in the church, is expressed through an attitude of generosity toward those you work with. It’s an attitude that says, “It’s okay if God blesses you more than He blesses me, because He has already given me more than I deserve.” Once you take your eyes off everyone else, and get focused on what you’re supposed to be doing, that’s when you open the door for God to bless you in a great way.