The Bible tells the story of workers in a vineyard. Although some of the laborers started working early in the morning and some started late in the afternoon, at the end of the day the overseer paid them all the same wage. Those who started work in the evening were each paid a denarius, the same amount paid to those who started early in the morning. Needless to say, those who had worked all day grumbled and complained, saying that this was unfair. 

In this parable, Jesus described a scene that would be familiar to His listeners. By telling this story, Jesus was trying to help His followers understand something important about grace in the kingdom of God. We must understand this parable not as a lesson in economics but rather with an eye to its spiritual lesson. Jesus was not encouraging an unjust pay scale or discrimination; He was illustrating the nature of God’s grace in terms in which His followers could relate. The first thing to notice is that all of the laborers were unemployed before the landowner hired them. The fact that they were hired was due to the employer’s goodwill, not because of anything the workers brought to the situation


This story illustrates what God’s grace means to us. It doesn’t make any difference whether or not we have a talent or whether or not we have worked for a long time. Grace depends totally on the gracious and loving nature of God Himself.

In the kingdom of God, grace is given because of the nature of the Giver, not the worthiness of the recipient. Receiving God’s grace is a privilege for sinners who, after all, deserve nothing but condemnation. Furthermore, the landowner promised the first group fair wages (a denarius) for a day’s work; to the rest, he promised an undetermined amount, that is, whatever he determined was right. When evening came, the landowner paid everyone an entire day’s wage. 

Some workers grumbled that it was not fair for the owner to distribute wages equally to each worker; however, the owner did not pay less than he had promised, he simply offered a premium to some. It was not unfair. No one was underpaid; some were just treated with “unreasonable” generosity. And more importantly, everyone received the owner’s kindness and attention. This is God’s grace—a free gift, an undeserved favor—given by God’s own will.


In this parable, Jesus gave a clear warning to the Jews. They knew that they were the chosen people. As a result, they looked down on the Gentiles; they hated and despised them and hoped for nothing but their destruction. This attitude could well have been carried forward into the Christian Church. If Gentiles were to be allowed into the fellowship of the Church at all, the early Christians might have felt that they must come in as inferiors. But in God’s kingdom, there is no such thing as a most-favored nation. It is as if Jesus said to the Jews, “You have received the great privilege of coming into the Church fellowship very early, right at the beginning. Later, others will come in. You must not claim a special honor or a special place because you were Christians before they were. All people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God.”

This is the original lesson of this parable, but it has much more to say to us today. This parable speaks especially to those who feel superior because of heritage or favored position and to those who feel superior because they have spent much time in the church, and this parable speaks especially to new believers, assuring them of God’s grace.

It doesn’t matter when a person enters the kingdom of heaven—late or early; in the first flush of youth, in the strength of the midday, or when the shadows are lengthening. Each person is equally dear to God.


This parable is a strong lesson about grace, God’s generosity. We shouldn’t begrudge those who turn to God in the last moments of life because, in reality, no one deserves eternal life. Many people we don’t expect to see in heaven will be there. Like the thief on the cross, a criminal who repented as he was dying, along with people who have walked with God for many years.

Here is the incredible generosity of God. These workers in the parable did not do the same amount of work, but they all received the same pay. “All service ranks the same with God.” It is not the amount of service given but the love with which it is given that matters.


We cannot earn what God gives us; we will never deserve it. What God gives us comes from the goodness of His heart. What God gives is a gift, not pay; it is grace, not a reward. When the great Puritan preacher Thomas Hooker was on his deathbed, a friend tried to console him by saying, “Brother Hooker, you are going to receive your reward.” “No, no!” he breathed, “I go to receive grace!”

As the apostle Paul reviewed his more than 30 years of sacrificial service, he saw himself as the “chief of sinners,” totally dependent on God’s grace. Although he undoubtedly anticipated the rewards he would receive, he gloried only in the cross (Gal. 6:14).


Remember this: Salvation does not come from position, career, eligibility, or work; salvation comes totally from God’s grace. God’s economy is different from ours. Even though you may be good at math, you will never fully understand God’s economy until you get to heaven. His grace is far beyond our idea of fairness. Jesus paid the price for sin so that everyone who trusts in Him will receive grace. What an amazing grace!

General Conference Ministerial Association