The Eleventh Hour

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. “It is like,” he said, “a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” This is such a beautiful passage about God’s choice, his property of us, and his love for sinners.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this passage is the men who came in at the eleventh hour and worked for one hour. They were paid the same amount as the men who worked the whole day. These men who worked through the heat of the day were angry, yelling, “They worked only for one hour and you have made them equal with us!”

The master replied, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Romans 11:35 comes to mind here, “Who has given a gift to the him that he might be repaid.” These workers felt as if the master owed them something. Rather, everything the master gave was a gift. In verse 4, the master says to workers at the third hour, “You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.” The master was not going to wrong the workers. He did not cheat them, for they received what they had agreed to work for. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong” and “I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you,” the master said to the angry workers.

This is such a beautiful picture of how God interacts with us. He owns us, therefore he can choose who he pleases and he can give as he pleases. He hired a few to work in his field and he has done us no wrong for whatever we receive. If we are honest with ourselves, we should realize that all we deserve is hell and damnation. Instead, God went out early in the morning to search for workers, selected a few and said, “Here’s a denarius. You don’t deserve this, but I want you to work in my field.”

Then there are those who were hired in the eleventh hour. How many of us are eleventh hour workers?

I am.

I should have been left on the street, condemned, thirsty, and penniless. I was “dead in my trespasses and sins” and without a hope in this world. But God didn’t leave me there. Some days I feel like my sin is so great and I am so wicked. That should be an everyday realization. All I can do at those times is quiver at the thought of God extending his hand of grace and saying, “Here’s a denarius. I know you only worked one hour, but that’s okay. I love you.”