Matthew 20:1-6 – “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 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?’” NIV
Many of us look at this parable about the kingdom of heaven and say with the first hired workers that the pay isn’t “fair,” and we discuss the parable from that perspective. I’ll deal with that question next. First, let’s talk about this question. The landowner is not merely hiring workers to stand in the vineyard but to work in the vineyard. I take that to mean that Christ-followers are to join Jesus in His mission on earth according to how the Holy Spirit has gifted them. This reflects the idea that as disciples of Jesus we are being equipped to become apostles of Jesus. Jesus’ intent for His first followers was that they would become apostles who would spread the Gospel throughout the world. I believe that is still His intent for those who choose to follow Him.
This question could be interpreted “Why have you waited so long to join Me on My mission?” We often interpret this whole parable to just be about salvation when there is more than salvation being discussed here. Jesus wants everyone to be saved; but He also wants those being saved to work for the team. So the question is not just for those who have not yet decided to follow Jesus; but also for those of us who have decided to follow Him: “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”
When are the times that Jesus can ask me that question? When do I stand around doing nothing when the work of the Kingdom is going on all around me? When do I stand around doing nothing when children, youth, and adults that I know may go into eternity without ever hearing about how much Jesus loves them? See Paul’s admonitions to the early churches in Ephesians 5:15-16 and Colossians 4:5-6.