Thursday 10 November 2022

Bible Book:

'So the last will be first, and the first will be last.' (v. 16)

Matthew 20:1-16 Thursday 10 November 2022

Psalm 104:1-23


Today’s passage comes from a section of Matthew’s Gospel where he records Jesus’ final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, teaching and meeting various people on the road. Jesus has just been speaking about the challenges of wealth and he proceeds to tell an intriguing story concerning the payment of day labourers on a vineyard. It is a challenging text and one that has inspired a great deal of reflection and study.

First, we should note that this is a parable, like many others that Jesus told. It is not a straightforward narrative with a single moral. Rather, it is a story that is meant to provoke lively questions and debate. As here, Jesus’ parables are often marked by recognisable people from everyday life – fathers, shepherds, kings, etc – behaving in a very strange manner.

Second, we should observe the elements of social commentary in this passage. Jesus is describing a scene that would have been very familiar to his audiences: day labourers being hired by a landowner who needed extra workers at harvest time. This reflected the reality of life in 1st century Palestine, where the rich had steadily accumulated larger and larger estates, buying up families’ plots of lands, often through unscrupulous money-lending. The desperate workers waiting to be hired in the marketplace, fearing starvation, are a long way from the prophets’ vision of what God’s kingdom should look like: “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

Third, Jesus’ skills as a story teller are very evident in this parable. The way it is told deliberately builds up our anticipation and curiosity, only revealing the surprising twist at the very end. Both the workers who have been toiling all day and we the listeners are left surprised! We can clearly see why Jesus used the medium of parables so often to engage his audiences, and why they were so well remembered.


To Ponder:

  •  If this is a parable about God, is God fair?
  • In this parable, Jesus is (partly) commenting on the political and economic situation of his own day. How might he respond to how our economy functions today?
  • How could we apply this parable to our own world today?


God the first and the last, give us a deeper vision that we might see beyond the narrow limits of our world and embrace the values of your eternal kingdom. Amen.

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