The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard


The following parable teaches us a lesson about unity:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out . . . ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first [said], . . . ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you . . .’ ” Mt 20:1-16

In the time of Jesus, daytime was divided into twelve hours from sunrise to sunset. Presently, the third hour would correspond to nine in the morning, the sixth hour to noon, the ninth hour to three in the afternoon, and the eleventh hour to five o’clock.

In the parable, the owner gave those who were standing outside doing nothing an opportunity to work in his vineyard. The workers entered the vineyard at different times of the day―some early, some at nine in the morning, some at noon, some at three in the afternoon, and others at five o’clock. However, they all received the same wage. It seems natural that those who worked longer deserved to get paid more. However, God, the owner of the vineyard, paid all the workers equally, starting from the ones hired last.

God is just (Dt 32:4). He gives to everyone according to what he has done (Rev 22:12). God, who is fair, gave the same wage to all the laborers whether they worked for only one hour or throughout the entire day. Through this, we can conclude that they all did the same amount of work despite starting at different times of the day.