In the parables, not everything Jesus talks about has a meaning. Some might wonder what the ‘vineyard’ is, and I can even imagine some former tea-totaling modern Baptists grasping even here for a Bible passage that smiles upon their sinful use of alcohol (would you believe I know a Baptist deacon raising a vineyard for wine production? Okay, way off point I know…maybe I’ll opine at another time). The vineyard has no secret meaning in the parable—it’s just the context in which Jesus tells His story.
But there is a side-point to this parable—that God’s children are actively involved in God’s work. It’s timely because we Americans just celebrated Labor Day. God’s children need to labor. Remember the old hymn:
Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
Or how about the really old hymn (from my grandparents generation):
O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come
When I shall lay my armor by And dwell in peace at home?
We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes,
We’ll work till Jesus comes, And we’ll be gathered home.
The first thought is that there is work to do and the second thought is that this work is God’s work. We modern Christians are busy, feverishly active in doing things, so few need help embrace the first thought. To be sure, there are a few lazy, slothful, passive Christians who are doing nothing while waiting for the trumpet blast to call us home. If you find yourself in that group, give some thought to this point.
But most need help embracing that the work we are doing must be God’s work. The question of our age is: is what we are engaged in the King’s business (or to use the imagery of our parable—the Father’s business)?
James Montgomery Boice puts it this way:
“That is an especially important word to our generation, for many today are working—it is an age of work, an age of sometimes feverish activity—but most of what is done is not for God. It is work in our vineyards, for our profit, the end being our ease and glory. I am convinced that in any normal gathering of contemporary Christians the majority have never done any consistent work for God and are unlikely to do so unless their present understanding of discipleship or their present life-style changes. They do not serve in church offices. They do not teach Bible classes. They do not witness. They do not bring friends or neighbors to church. If the truth be told, they do not even pray or read their Bibles much. Yet they suppose all is well with them and that God is somehow pleased with their nonperformance. They would say that they have no time for those things, being so busy elsewhere.”
Could it be that you are so exhausted doing your own work, you have no time to work for the Father?