Summary: The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is a picture of God's grace.
One of the most common internet urban myths spread by emails is that Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, once spoke to a high school graduation and shared some practical life rules. Bill Gates never did that. But California educator, Charles Sykes, DID create the rules attributed to Bill Gates. So using Dr. Sykes’ list, let’s countdown the top seven life rules you won’t learn in high school:
Rule 7: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 6: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule 5: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
Rule 4: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping; they called it opportunity.
Rule 3: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.
Rule 2: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one. (That’s probably why the list was attributed to Bill Gates)
And the #1 Rule you won’t learn in High School is: Life is not fair. So get used to it.
When Charles Sykes was asked how he felt to know that everyone from Ann Landers to Paul Harvey wrongly attributed his list to Bill Gates he said, “I don’t get upset because, hey, life isn’t fair, so I’m used to it.”
Sykes says the average teenager uses the phrase “It’s not fair!” 8.6 times a day. The kids got it from their baby-boomer parents who were the most idealistic generation ever. It’s not fair that some people are taller or faster and some can eat gallons of Häagen Daz without gaining a pound. It’s not fair that some high-school dropout, coke-snorting Hollywood actor makes more money on one bad movie than all the high school teachers in Tyler combined.
Or we may complain, “I’ve been with this company for years, and that young upstart gets the promotion? It’s not fair!” “I’ve been a good parent, and I raised my child to know the Lord, and they have rebelled against God. It’s just not fair!” “I lived a clean life, I’ve never smoked, and now the doctor tells me I have lung cancer? My uncle smoked a pack a day for 30 years and he’s fine. It’s just not fair!”
I’ve often said, “Life isn’t fair, but God is good.” In this parable today, Jesus is going to demonstrate the truth of that statement. Before we read Matthew 20:1, slip back into the last verse in Matthew 19. Remember, the chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were inserted in the 13th century, and sometimes they were put in the wrong places. Let’s read Matthew 19:30 and then Matthew 20:16, because they provide identical bookends to this great parable.
Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Then He says the same thing but reverses the order in Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first and the first will be last.” Now, here’s the full story in Matthew 20:1-16. To help us understand it, I’ve added times and dollars in our vernacular:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning (6:00 a.m.) to hire men to work in his vineyard He agreed to pay them a denarius ($100) for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour (9:00 a.m.) 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 (noon) and the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour (5:00 p.m.) 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 one hired and going to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour (5:00 p.m.) came and each received a denarius ($100). So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius ($100). 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 ($100)? 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.”