StoneBridge Community Church
The Strange Economy of God: Matthew 20.1-16
Pastor Jeff Cheadle
Locations & Times
  • StoneBridge Campus
    4832 Cochran St, Simi Valley, CA 93063, USA
    Saturday 5:30 PM, Sunday 9:00 AM, Sunday 10:30 AM
  • Growth Groups
    Simi Town Center Way, Simi Valley, CA 93065, USA
    Sunday 12:00 PM

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Jesus was one of the greatest story-tellers of all time.

The Text in Context

Allen Ross, "Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)" from the series An Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew.

The Laborers in the Vineyard

Hampton Keathley, IV, "The Laborers in the Vineyard" from the series The Parables.


Parables are "stories, especially those of Jesus, told to provide a vision of life, especially life in God's kingdom. Parable means a putting alongside for purposes of comparison and new understanding." —Peter Rhea Jones, "Parables" in Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, editor, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991.
1. It's a story about…
1. It's a story about the goodness of God.

Roman silver denarius found by metal detector in the UK, 2014.

Poverty in First-Century Palestine

S. Häkkinen, ‘Poverty in the first-century Galilee" HTS Theological Studies 72(4), a3398. 2016.
For Reflection/Discussion: Jesus was one of the greatest story-tellers the world has ever known. Why did Jesus' tell stories? What were your first thoughts and feelings upon hearing Jesus' story of the Workers in the Vineyard? What is a parable? How does it help in our interpretation of this text to remember that it is a parable? In what ways does this parable point to the goodness of God?
2. It's a story about…
2. It's a story about the state of our hearts.
The reactions of those hired first
1. They were calculating.
2. They felt entitled.
3. They were ungrateful.
4. They lacked compassion.

11th century Byzantine portrayal of the parable

For Reflection/Discussion: With whom do you most closely identify in this story? Why? Be specific. Why, in your judgment, did those who were hired first become angry and take exception with the landowner's actions? Were the justified in doing so? Why or why not? What does their reaction suggest about the state of their hearts? What does your reaction to this parable suggest about the state of your heart?
3. It's a story about…
3. It's a story about caring for people in need.
Whom should we think the landowner encounters when he’s looking for workers late in the afternoon? What kind of people are the last to find jobs, added to the rolls only when there’s no more labor available? Nothing suggests that those characters in the parable are irresponsible or lazy. More likely, they are unwanted.
Who spends the whole day waiting to be hired but doesn’t find success until the end of the day? In Jesus’ time, these would be the weak, infirm, and disabled. Maybe the elderly, too. And other targets of discrimination… —Matthew Skinner

Day laborers wait for work at High and Spring streets, Moorpark.

For Reflection/Discussion: Read Matthew 20.6-7. According to Jesus, why were those who were hired at 5:00pm still standing in the marketplace? How might our attention (or lack of attention) to this detail change our reading of this parable? Who were the last to be hired at the time when Jesus told this story? What assumptions, if any, do you tend to make about people who are unemployed? immigrant workers? people with disabilities? the poor? elderly people? How might those assumptions compromise our willingness to extend compassion to people in need?
4. It's a story about…
4. It's a story about the privilege of knowing and serving the Lord.

"The Good Thief" by Michelangelo Cerquozzi. 1620-1660. Oil on slate. Porcini Gallery, London.

The Penitent Thief

Did you know the penitent thief has a name? He was given the name Dismas in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. Venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, he is known as St. Dismas  or, in Spanish and Portuguese, San Dimas. The nearby California city that is home to Raging Waters and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure derives its name from him. Learn more about him here…
Spugeon "Early and Late" quotation
"There have been some to whom the eleventh hour has been the very hour of death; some, I say, how many or how few is not for me to know. There is one instance we know in Scripture, it was the dying thief.

"There is but one; God however, in his abundant mercy can do as he wills to the praise of the glory of his grace, and at the eleventh hour he can call his chosen. It is very late, it is very, very, very late, it is sorrowfully late, it is dolefully late, but it is not too late, and if the Master call thee, come though a hundred years of sin should make thy feet heavy to thee, so that thy steps are painfully limping. If he call thee it is late but not too late, and therefore come.

"Have you ever thought of how the thief worked for his Lord? It was not a fine place for working, hanging on a cross dying, just at the eleventh hour; but he did a deal of work in the few minutes. Observe what he did.

First he confessed Christ— he acknowledged him to be Lord, confessed him before men, In the second place he justified Christ— “This man has done nothing amiss.”

In the next place he worshiped the Lord Jesus, calling him “Lord.”

He even began to preach, for he rebuked his fellow sinner; he told him that he should not revile one who was so unrighteously condemned.

He offered a petition which has become a very model of prayer— “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

At any rate I wish I could say of myself what I can say of the thief, he did all he could; I cannot say that of myself, I am afraid I cannot say it of any of you. I do not know anything the thief could have due on the cross which he did not do. As soon as ever he was called, he seems to have worked in the vineyard to the utmost extent of his ability; and so let me say to you, if you should be called at the eleventh hour, my dear hearer, though thou be well stricken in years amid aged, yet for Jesus Christ’s sake out of great love for all the great things which he hath done for thee, go thy way and praise him with all thy might."

—Charles Spurgeon, "Early or Late OR Horae Gratiae" (italics added for emphasis)
For Reflection/Discussion: Why did the landowner keep returning to the marketplace for workers? What does his doing so have to say about the urgency, importance, and value of their service to him? Note that those hired at the last hour have a mission-critical part to play. What do you see as your role in the plan of God? Why is it so vitally important to focus on the harvest and the privilege of being called by God to serve, rather than on our imagined rights or our notions of fairness? What are your top take-aways from this week's message?

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