The Review and Herald


July 3, 1894

Parable of the Laborers


Christ taught by means of figures and symbols. On one occasion he spoke a parable in regard to the hiring of laborers to illustrate the way in which God deals with those who devote themselves to his service. He said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market-place, and said unto them; Go ye also in the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” RH July 3, 1894, par. 1

It was the custom in Judea for men to wait at the market-places for some one to come and employ them; and in Europe this custom is still in vogue. Those who need help go to the market-place to find servants that they may employ. The man in the parable is represented as going out at different hours to engage workmen. Those he hired at the earliest hour, agreed to work for him for a stated sum of money, while those who were hired later left the wages they were to receive wholly to the discretion of the householder. RH July 3, 1894, par. 2

“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou 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 the last shall be first, and the first last.” RH July 3, 1894, par. 3

The lesson of the laborers had a bearing upon the question about which the disciples had disputed by the way,—who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The world's Redeemer saw the danger that would imperil his church, and sought to arouse his people to an understanding of their position; for this parable was but a continuation of the lesson taught when Peter asked, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” RH July 3, 1894, par. 4

The Lord will have all who receive his grace, believe and trust him that justifieth the ungodly. With implicit trust we are to stay upon God, and let the heart rest in him without a question as to what is to be our measure of reward. The Saviour presents before us the scene of the last judgment when the reward is given to those upon his right hand, and the sentence of condemnation to those upon his left hand. The righteous are represented as wondering what they have done for which they are to be so liberally rewarded. They had had the abiding presence of Christ in their hearts; they had been imbued with his Spirit, and without conscious effort on their part; they had been serving Christ in the person of his saints, and had thereby gained the sure reward. But they had not had in view the reward they were to receive, and the expectation of it had been no part of the motive that had actuated their service. What they did was done from love to Christ and to their fellow-men, and Christ identifies himself with suffering humanity, and accounts that all deeds done in sympathy and compassion and love to men, are done to him. RH July 3, 1894, par. 5

Those upon his left hand also acted out the natural heart, and had manifested pride, selfishness, and evil, doing deeds of unkindness to others as unconsciously as the good had done good deeds. They had not cherished the principles of sympathy and love. The fatherless and the widow had not had attention, nor received gifts from them. They inquire: “Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” RH July 3, 1894, par. 6

Repeatedly the Saviour says, “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Jesus would have those who are engaged in his service, not eager for rewards, nor feel that they must receive compensation for all that they do. The Lord would have our minds run a different channel; for he sees not as man sees. He does not judge by appearances, but estimates a man by the sincerity of his heart. Those who have brought into their service the spirit of true sacrifice, of self-abasement, are the ones who will stand first at last. The laborers who were first hired, represented those who have an envious, self-righteous spirit, and claim that, for their services, preference should be given to them rather than to others. The householder said to the one who questioned his right to give more to others than to him, “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?” I have kept my part of the agreement. RH July 3, 1894, par. 7

In a subordinate sense we should all have respect unto the recompense of the reward. But while we appreciate the promise of blessing, we should have perfect confidence in Jesus Christ, believing that he will do right, and give us reward according as our works have been. The gift of God is eternal life, but Jesus would have us not so anxious concerning rewards, as that we may do the will of God because it is right to do it, irrespective of all gain. Paul kept in view the crown of life to be given him, and not only to be given to him, but to all who love His appearing. It was the victory gained through faith in Jesus Christ that made the crown so desirable. He ever exalted Jesus. All boasting of talent, of victory in ourselves, is out of place. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” RH July 3, 1894, par. 8

Those who will receive the most abundant reward will be those who have mingled with their activity and zeal, gracious, tender pity for the poor, the orphan, the oppressed, and the afflicted. But those who pass by on the other side, who are too busy to give attention to the purchase of the blood of Christ, who are full of doing the great things, will find themselves least and last. Men act out the true character of the heart. There are about us those who have a meek and lowly spirit, the Spirit of Christ, who do many little things to help those around them, and who think nothing of it; they will be astonished at last to find that Christ has noticed the kind word spoken to the disheartened, and taken account of the smallest gift given for the relief of the poor, that cost the giver some self-denial. The Lord measures the spirit, and rewards accordingly, and the pure, humble, childlike spirit of love makes the offering precious in his sight. RH July 3, 1894, par. 9

(Concluded next week.)