I believe this parable Jesus told was in direct response to Peter’s question of,
We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us? (Matthew 19:27)
And in telling this story, I think Jesus meant both to encourage Peter, but also to warn him.
Jesus told of a man who hired different workers throughout the day to work in his vineyard. To the first crew he hired, he specifically negotiated an amount to pay them (a denarius, which was a typical salary for a full day’s work) . To the remaining crews he hired, no specific amount was negotiated. Instead, he simply said,
You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. (4)
At the end of the day, he paid the workers who started later first, and he paid each of them a denarius. So when the people who had started from early in the morning walked up to get their pay, they obviously expected to get paid more. Instead, they got one denarius as well. Because of this, they started to grumble. And rightfully so. Some of the other workers only worked a single hour. And yet, they got paid the same as the ones who had worked all day.
But look at the landowner’s response.
I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? (13-15)
In other words, the workers couldn’t complain that they had been cheated. They received the exact amount that they had negotiated for in the morning. They weren’t angry because they were cheated, but because the landowner was generous with the others who had come later.
What was Jesus’ point to Peter?
“Don’t worry so much about ‘what you’ll get’ for following me. Don’t worry about getting ‘what you deserve.’ And don’t go comparing yourself to other people, concerning yourself with how much you’ve given up and how much they have given up. You will be rewarded.
But God isn’t so much interested in giving people what they deserve. He is a God that delights in giving so much more. And if you are so busy worrying about getting “what you deserve,” God may just give it to you…and nothing more.
But if you do what God asks, without worrying about what others are doing, or how much more you should be rewarded for what you’ve done, you’ll find that God is so much more generous than you can possibly imagine.”
How about you? Are you constantly comparing yourself to others? Are you always wondering why God seems to be blessing others more than you even though you are “doing more?”
Remember that grace has nothing to do with “what we deserve.” Rather grace is all about God’s goodness to us though we deserve nothing. Truth be told, the only thing we deserve from God is death, because all of us has sinned.
So let us not focus on what we deserve. Rather let us rejoice in God’s grace that he gives us what we don’t deserve. Eternal life. Joy. Peace. Love. And he gives to us abundantly.