The Review and Herald


July 10, 1894

Parable of the Laborers



The Lord gave lessons in his parables that are ever to remain fresh in the mind. He saw that the weakness, the curse of the church, would be a spirit of self-righteousness, that it would lead men to think that they could do something by which they might earn a right to a place in the kingdom of heaven. He saw that they would imagine that when they had attained to certain goodness, made certain advancement, then the Lord would come in and help them, and in this way there would be an abundance of self and but little of Jesus. Many who have made but little advancement, are puffed up, eager for flattery, jealous if not regarded first and most important, and they cherish a feeling of superiority over others. But it will be those who work in the greatest humility, who are full of gratitude to God, who have a principle woven into everything they do that makes their works fragrant as was Abel's offering, that heaven will accept as precious. He who is humble, who is trusting as is a little child, is the one to whom God will look. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is of great price in the sight of God. “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.” Christ said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” If all would bear in mind that we are on test and trial before the heavenly host, and that it is to be made manifest of what spirit we are, there would be more seriousness, more earnestness in prayer. RH July 10, 1894, par. 1

“Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Salvation is wholly of grace. Love and humility are the essential qualities of character that will give to their possessor the first place in the kingdom of heaven. The actions that express these qualities will call forth from Christ the words of commendation, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” RH July 10, 1894, par. 2

Laborers in the vineyard, it is not the length of time in which you are engaged in the work that makes it acceptable to God, but the willingness, fidelity, and sincerity with which you labor. The Jews were first called into the vineyard; but they were proud and self-righteous, and were displeased that the Gentiles, whom they thoroughly despised, were admitted to equal privileges with themselves in the things of the kingdom of God. Nothing was more exasperating to the Jews than to have the apostles intimate that the Gentiles were to be sought after, and brought into, the gospel light. The parable of the laborers showed how sinful it was to cherish such a spirit as did the Jews against the Gentiles. Jesus warned those whom he first called into the church, lest the spirit of emulation should be found among them. They had seen how the rich young man had been warned, and how he had failed to profit by the lesson Jesus gave him. Jesus had showed him how strong were the bands that bound him to earth, although he thought himself perfect in his obedience to God's requirements. When he went away sorrowful, Peter said, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” This question on the part of Peter showed that he thought that a certain amount of work on the part of the apostles would be deserving of a certain amount of reward. Among the disciples there was a spirit of complacency, of self-exaltation, and they made comparisons among themselves. If any one of them signally failed, others felt themselves superior. Jesus saw a spirit coming in that must be checked. He could read the hearts of men, and he saw their tendencies to selfishness in the question, “What shall we have?” He must correct this evil before it assumed gigantic proportions. RH July 10, 1894, par. 3

The disciples were in danger of losing sight of the true principles of the gospel. By the use of this parable he teaches them that the reward is not of works, lest any man should boast, but it is all of grace. The laborer called into the vineyard at the beginning of the day had his reward in the grace that was given him. But the one to whom the last call came, had the same grace as had the first. The work was all of grace, and no one was to glory over another. There was to be no grudging one against another. No one was privileged above another, nor could any one claim the reward as his right. Peter expressed the feelings of a hireling. RH July 10, 1894, par. 4

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” The first and the last are to be sharers of the great, eternal reward, and the first should gladly welcome the last. He who grudges the reward to another, forgets that he himself is saved by grace alone. RH July 10, 1894, par. 5

This parable rebukes all jealousy, envy, and hateful suspicions. Love rejoiceth in the truth, and institutes no comparisons. He who possesses love, only compares the majestic loveliness of Christ and his own imperfect character. Here is a warning to all laborers, however long they may have been in service, however abundant may be their labors, that without love to their brethren, without humility before God, they are nothing. When pride and self-complacency are brought into the work, the work is marred. The value of the Christian's labors is to be found only in the grace given him of Jesus Christ. The spirit that goes with the labor is that which gives it its value. Those who are first through self-complacency and pride may become last of all, while those who cherish meekness may become first; for the reward is not of works but of grace, lest any man should boast, and exalt himself above his fellows. It is the spirit that determines the worthiness or unworthiness of the work. Every call to work in the vineyard is from the Lord. It is Jesus Christ who seeks the laborer, not the laborer who seeks Jesus. Jesus says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.” “And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” The first impulse to come to Christ is the result of his drawing power upon the heart. RH July 10, 1894, par. 6

Jesus says, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” All I can give either first or last is myself. If any one has been laboring for anything else except the Lord's glory, he will be disappointed in receiving a reward. The reception of the penny by the laborers represents the character that God will give to those who follow him. We are to keep in view eternal realities, and our spiritual eyesight must be clear; for those only who behold Christ will be changed into his image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord. All who are teachable, all who are humble, all who serve from love, are as mirrors that are being polished to reflect more perfectly the divine image. Their souls are becoming purified, their ideas are becoming broader, and their characters are being transformed after the divine similitude. But those whose hearts are lifted up in pride, who are self-righteous, full of envy, jealousy, and evil surmising, are enfeebling their capacity for receiving from God that which will make them what he would have them to be. They are clouding the mirror, darkening the vision, marring the vessel, so that it contains less and less of God's blessing. RH July 10, 1894, par. 7

Jesus says to those who think they should receive more than he gives them, “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny: Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” So long as I am just with thee, is it not my privilege to be liberal to others? Those who display such wrong feelings, make it manifest that they deserve no reward; for many are called but few are chosen. Many, many are called to work in the Lord's vineyard; but they manifest so little humility, show so little appreciation of the Lord's grace, are so wanting in submission, so poorly comprehend the fact that righteousness is alone from Christ, and that there is none in themselves, that they fail to develop characters that can be called true and faithful, and so lose heaven at last. RH July 10, 1894, par. 8