To the one that works, the reward is reckoned a Wage or Prize but to the one who does not work and yet gets a reward, to him/her the reward is reckoned as a Gift. There is a difference between a GIFT and a WAGE or PRIZE. This was the distinction drawn by the greatest theologian that ever lived (Apostle Paul). He had presented a case before the Jews on how the whole of humanity had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The apple of God’s eye were no more the Jews because there had been a transition from the dispensation of the Law into another dispensation that was coming up at that time – dispensation of Grace.
The Jews thought they were still within the confines of God’s prophetic agenda. They did not understand the coming of Jesus and what that coming meant to God; coupled with what will follow after the death, burial and resurrection. They could no longer approach God on the basis of works (observing the commandments, the holy days, the Sabbath to mention a few) to become the righteousness of God. The times have changed and the resultant effect of this change was the righteousness that could only be obtained outside of the Law of Moses. This was witnessed by the Prophets and the Law but would not use the Law as its basis. This new kind of righteousness broke down the racial barrier that existed between the Jews and all other nations because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.
Jesus, in responding to Peter’s question (what do we get seeing we have left all and followed you?) after he told them the story of the rich man who made a public choice between his money and God. Jesus said, “It would be easy for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter into God’s kingdom.” He explained to Peter using the parable of the vineyard and the laborer’s who worked on the vineyard. This would probably explain to us what we get when we decide to work for God in His vineyard because many today wonder on what benefits there is when one decides to serve God at the expense of other things.
This parable was compared to the kingdom of God; it is about a landowner who went out early in the morning looking for laborers to work on his vineyard. He got some laborers and agreed with them on the wage for going to work on the vineyard; the wage was equivalent to a days wage (Denarius it’s called) and immediately they were sent to the vineyard to work. The workers had no problems with the agreed wage.
Three hours later the landowner got other laborers and sent them to the same vineyard to work, but he promised to give what was due unto them in wages. He did the same at the sixth hour and at the ninth hour, sending more laborers to his vineyard. Finally at the eleventh hour, he got more laborers and sent them also to work in the vineyard; making it five times that the landowner went out to choose for himself laborers to work for him. The landowner had to deal with five groups of workers. The workers had complete confidence of the landowner’s personality that they trusted him at his word.
Planting, maintenance and harvesting in those days was strenuous work requiring hard physical labor in the heat of the summer. Additional laborers were needed to complete all the work done. Some of the laborers came in at the eleventh hour meaning they were going to work for just an hour. Some would at the end of the day, have worked for three hours, some would have worked for six hours, some would have worked for nine hours and some would have worked for twelve hours.
When it was time to receive their wages, the landowner called for his steward to pay the laborers and to their amazement the last group of laborers were paid first. They were paid the same wage as agreed with the first set of laborers who had worked for twelve hours. Logically, the first set of workers would then think that because they had been working all day, they ought to get more money than the laborers who had just worked for one hour. They had forgotten that they had made a pact with the landowner to work for a certain amount of money when they were hired.
Some of the laborers became livid when they saw they would all be paid the same wage even though they got exactly what they had agreed. The landowner was constrained to defend his actions to the set of workers who had been working for twelve hours knowing that he had dealt with them fairly considering the pact they had before they were hired. It was the prerogative of the landowner to pay whatever wage he felt he could pay as long as he was operating within the confines of the initial agreement they had. It was not prejudice as some may want to propose.
The landowner in this story is God Almighty – who sheds in abundance His mercy and grace to whomever He wills or has chosen. In this story, the wage received, which was the same for all, is the salvation that all would receive from God when they believe in Christ. The grace of God is given to those whose WORKS and self-righteousness could never have obtained it; this grace is made available to redeem them that would believe in Jesus (for all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory), through the death, burial and resurrection. If God decides to call someone early and the other an hour before He comes, it is His prerogative and as such we are not allowed to question it. Just as the landowner has a right to do what he wishes with his money, God reserves the right to have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy on as He said to Moses (Romans 9:15,16).
The first set of workers (who worked for twelve hours) begrudged receiving the same wage as the last group. They had similar attitudes to the Pharisees who were exasperated at Jesus’ teaching that others could inherit a heavenly kingdom they thought was earmarked for them alone. They derided Jesus for offering this same kingdom to the poor, sinners, Gentiles or whatever the Pharisees called them because they didn’t want to be on the same pedestal as the Gentiles. “Is your eye evil” was a statement used to denote an aura of envy and jealousy displayed by these workers even after they had received their own wage.
The remaining laborers got their wages without the envy, jealousy and complaints from fellow workers. God reserves the right to choose into His kingdom anyone He wants to at anytime. Some have been saved, some would be saved and there are some outside the fold whom God eventually will save. An example was the thief that repented as Jesus was nailed to the cross; Jesus told him “today, you will be with me in paradise.” It is not about how long you have been saved because at the close of this dispensation, everyone who would receive Christ as Lord would get the same reward of eternal life and bliss in the presence of God in Heaven; for many would be called and few chosen as Christ ended this story.
I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with such special love – C H Spurgeon.