Matthew 20:1-16 (New International Reader's Version)
1 "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who owned land. He went out early in the morning to hire people to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to give them the usual pay for a day's work. Then he sent them into his vineyard.
3 "About nine o'clock in the morning he went out again. He saw others standing in the market place doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard. I'll pay you what is right.' 5 So they went.
"He went out again about noon and at three o'clock and did the same thing. 6 About five o'clock he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard spoke to the person who was in charge of the workers. He said, 'Call the workers and give them their pay. Begin with the last ones I hired. Then go on to the first ones.'
9 "The workers who were hired about five o'clock came. Each received the usual day's pay. 10 So when those who were hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each of them also received the usual day's pay.
11 "When they received it, they began to complain about the owner. 12 'These people who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said. 'You have paid them the same as us. We have done most of the work and have been in the hot sun all day.'
13 "The owner answered one of them. 'Friend,' he said, 'I'm being fair to you. Didn't you agree to work for the usual day's pay? 14 Take your money and go. I want to give the ones I hired last the same pay I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely to the others?'
16 "So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last."
Our world is all about power, position and prestige. We are all brought up with the saying that "It's not what you know, but who you know!" Many of us had the uncomfortable experience of choosing teams, and wondering if we would get picked. Others have had the experience of being passed over for a promotion at work or school because someone was more favored than you. Even in our families, many of us had the experience of a parent favoring one child over another. Because of some of these things, many of us may feel very inadequate at times, and at other times we spend our entire lives competing to stay on top, or working to get ahead.
What a difference there is in the Kingdom of Heaven! In God's economy, there are no favorites; there is no working your way to the top. You can work all of your life for the Lord, or you can be a brand new believer, a new Christian, and when it comes to His gift of salvation, we are all equal. Everyone will receive the same reward of eternal life, and spending eternity with our God in heaven. Jesus wanted to make this very clear to all who read his words. God has the right to make the decision because everyone and everything is His.
Just as in the parable, there will be those who feel they deserve more, but we are fortunate that despite our sins, God accepts us no matter what. We don't want it any other way. The world would tell us that you have to be better than someone else, or work harder, or accumulate more good deeds over your bad, but not so with God. Jesus is available and free to all. He has made the payment on our behalf.