“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out ... (Matthew 20:1-16)

“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 market-place 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 and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,' they answered. He said to them, '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, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘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. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

Love and humility

The key ingredients missed by many who have misinterpreted this parable are love and humility.

The kingdom of God is not a physical place like a country or a city. In fact, every location or place is owned by the Supreme Being so location is part of God’s kingdom.

But the physical world is a place of consequences: Where there is a consequence to every action performed with a self-centered motive ("as you sow, so shall you reap"). The spiritual world is not like the physical dimension.

Unfortunately, many see the spiritual world in this way - that it is like graduating from high school and going to college - and higher grades in high school guarantee placement in college.

The spiritual world does not have these characteristics. Yes, the spiritual world is also a dimension, separate from the physical world. But the physical world is also part of the kingdom of God. The spiritual world is quite simply, the dimension of love and humility - whereas the physical world is the dimension of self-centeredness.

The spiritual realm is where the key element is ones loving service relationship with God. There are no favorites. Just love. The Supreme Being loves each and every one of us unconditionally - regardless of what we have done or achieved. Thinking that God loves one of us more than another would be like asking a father which of his sons he loves more.

The spiritual world is where each of person takes shelter in God and exchanges love with Him - and the only qualification is to humbly accept His unconditional love.

This is the meaning of this parable

Herein lies the secret of the parable. Many who read this parable of Jesus might focus upon the people actually working in the vineyard - and the fact that some worked all day and others worked for a few hours.

But the key to the parable is actually the relationship between the vineyard owner and each laborer:

"Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?"

"Because no-one has hired us," they answered.

"You also go and work in my vineyard." The vineyard owner is showing his mercy on the workers. He is recognizing their plight of not having any work - and thus money. They had the same needs the first group had, in that they needed to earn a living. So the vineyard owner’s focus was on what they need, not how much they will work.

In the same way, some sectarian teachers might teach, ‘if you are good and go to church every Sunday, you will certainly go to heaven.’ So while their follers are going to church every Sunday, they are feeling like they are racking up the church hours - qualifying for their entrance into the spiritual world.

Meanwhile, a humble person who never went to church looks up to the sky one day, falls to his knees and simply says, in a humble and sincere prayer to God: “Oh compassionate God, I have no qualifications. I have sinned. I have nothing more to achieve. I simply want to come to love and serve You. Please help me.”

This one simple prayer, said with sincerity and humility, will in effect, move this person into immediate qualification to return to the spiritual world - regardless of their church attendance. This is because of the need for a relationship with the Supreme Being.

Relationships

Consider this parable in light of a person who spurns a relationship with another - say a person who runs off with another woman. What would be their qualification for returning to that relationship later? Would the spurned lover take the dodger back once flowers had been sent for five days in a row? Not necessarily. However, if the dodger approached with humility and sincerity, asking with an apologetic heart, the situation might change instantly, regardless of how many flowers were sent.

We can offer another analogy to illustrate this: Let’s say that we received two phone voicemails one day. One was from a person we talk to every day, and they chattered on about their day. The other was from a long lost friend we hadn’t talked to in twenty years and their voice mail talked about how much they missed us. Which of the two would we call back first?