Friday, April 8, 2011

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Was Jesus a Socialist?

By Abraham Israel

Socialist means a person who believes in socialism and advocates its values. Socialism means 'in (Economics), an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels. Or in (Government, Politics & Diplomacy), any of various social or political theories or movements in which the common welfare is to be achieved through the establishment of a socialist economic system.'

We are tempted to decide that Jesus must have been a socialist after reading the following parable plainly. The following parable is usually called as "The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard." It definitely deals with money, work and shared capital reward from the goverment of God. All the ingredients which usually support a socialist cause.

Let us read it first,
"1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”" (Matt 20:1-16).

We see here in the above parable the kingdom of God likened to a landowner who calls labourers to work in his field starting from morning 6.00 am he hires some labourers, then at 9.00 am he hires some more labourers who were idle without work, then at 12.oo pm he hires still some more labourers standing idle without work because of the need of the harvest to be done before the day gets over, then again at 3.00 pm in the evening still more labourers are hired who were standing idle for 2/3rd of the whole day and atlast even at 5.00 pm which is the starting time of the final hour before the day closes at 6.00pm, the owner hires those idle labourers who stood idle with no work the whole day, to come and do the final work of harvest because of the dire need of harvesters.

Now according to the law of work and wages, the one who has worked more will be the one who will normally get more wages and also it is right for them to expect more pay than those who came to work for less hours than them in the harvest field. All the parables that Jesus spoke are heavenly realities that were compared with earthern realities to bring out the heavenly truth to be understood by earth bound men like us. So we cannot take a part of the parable and decide the meaning of it just by looking outwardly, but rather look deep inside it in a whole contextual way to know the spiritual meaning. First of all just because Jesus was advocating equal wages for all men without considering how much work they have done, does not mean that he is advocating socialism. Why? Because just after some five chapter afterwards in "the parable of the talents" in
Matt 25:14-30, he was commending the steward who multiplied 2 talent in to 4 and another one who multiplied 5 talents in to 10 saying "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (v 21, v 23) and then condemned the man who sat idle without using the one talent that he had given him.

The heavenly spirtual truths of the kingdom of God that we see in this parable is, those who harvested with much expectation of reward than others based on the work they did for God were disappointed with the reward. Those who knew that they came late in to harvest field of God and expected nothing more than what ever the king decides to give must have been overjoyed to see the benevolent heart of the lanowner. The question we should ask ourselves is, 'Is God unjust to forget our labour that we do for Him?' The answer is given by the writer of the book of Hebrews who said,
"9...[regarding] things that accompany salvation,... 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Heb 6:9-10). So we know from the above verses that surely things that accompany salvation is the service that we do for God and for this work God is just in rewarding each worker according to the work each one will do for the Lord (Eph 2:10). As also the great Apostle Paul who agreed with this truth said, "23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (Col 4:23-24). So according to amount of work we do with right motives, we will be rewarded.

But then what does God gives to us all equally. He has given his salvation to us all equally. Then the passage in context must be speaking about salvation of souls who were saved to serve God in the kingdom of God. Yes our guess is right, it does speak about the salvation of our souls and only then serving God as his servant with expectation of wages and finally serving God as bondservants with expectation of no wages but what the master chooses to give according to his goodness.

When we get saved and come in to the kingdom of God, we become the laborers whom God has called to work in His vineyard
(Eph 2:10). Some of us have come to Christ from our early childhood days, some of us have been born again in our young age, still others in their 40's, 50's, 60's and even in their 70's and some even just before their death, like that thief on the cross who got saved when He accepted Himself as a Sinner and Jesus Christ as His Savior moments before his death. All of us have the same reward of becoming a child of God [i.e. entering heaven to be in a relationship with God for eternity]. This is what we have agreed when we came in to the Kingdom of God to be a servant of God and this is the reason we call Jesus as our "LORD" (John 20:28; Acts 9:5; 1 Cor 12:3). Some of God's servants who think that they deserve better than this will be disappointed in heaven for their foolish thinking. People who have wrong motives in doing God's work are those who will be so dissatisfied with what God has rewarded them because they think that they deserve it. No man deserves anything good because we are all sinful beings bought by the Lord who paid for us by His own life. Jesus explains heavenly truths with earthly stories and it cannot be done vice versa because no one of us have seen heaven with our physical eyes.

All the chapter division and verse divisions came only after New Testament verses were introduced by Robert Stephens first in his Greco-Latin Testament published in 1551 A.D., and then later Stephens published the Latin Vulgate of 1555, the first whole Bible divided into the present verses. This is the reason in context to the end of Chapter 19, we see the topic was about salvation where his disciples were asking Jesus,
"Who then can be saved?" (Matt 19:25), also about sacrificial living for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt 19:29) and the reward for the work done through sacifice (Matt 19:27-28). The Apostle Paul confirms that this "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard" speaks about salvation by saying in Eph 2:8-10, "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." In other words Apostle Paul was saying no matter how much work we do for the Lord, we cannot boast about being saved because it was given to all of us freely. All are given salvation freely and it cannot be seen as a reward for our work, but as a free gift from God so that we cannot boast about how much work we have done to get saved before the Lord. These labourers with great expectation of more reward than their fellow labourers who worked with them, were trying to boast about how much they have slogged their way the whole day under the hot sun in Matt 20:10-14 to deserve a better salvation reward than what they have already received. They were not satisfied with salvation that God has given to them freely and equally along with other men. This dissatisfaction have come to them because they were not working as bondservants but as servants who were working just for rewards. They did not like themselves to receive salvation same as other men who worked along with them, because of an evil eye they rejected the goodness of God which makes Him freely give the privilege of salvation equally to all people alike.

The last and the least bondservant who worked with no motives but to please God will be the first in size of the reward and designation in the kingdom of God for eternity ahead, the first servants who were slogging for earthly reward will be the last to get rewarded in size and designation in heaven. Many who are called to serve God will work with bad motives of only earthly rewards, which shows he/she is a coolie minded servants who had worked just for earthly rewards. Thus only the bondsevants who work with no expectation of any reward except that which the Lord decides to give on that glorious day
[i.e. the "Bema seat Judgment" for all believers where each on will get their eternal reward (1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:9-11)], will only become chosen to enjoy and party with God in eternity ahead. These bond servants receives all the earthly reward only as bonus that God gives, but their eyes are set on heavenly rewards (Heb 12:2; 10:7). Hence these chosen men will be the bond servants who will serve God with no motives behind their work, but to please Him in everything (Acts 15:22, 25-26; 4:19-20; Gal 1:10; John 4:34, 38). This shows that Jesus was not a socialist but he was using this idea only as an example to reveal the deeper truths of heaven to all of us. God owns a copyright to all the ideas that man has because as the Bible says fearing Him "is the beginning of [all] wisdom" (Prov 9:10, a). The idea of socialism is itself is not wrong, but when it is applied individually apart from the wisdom of God, the same idea becomes useless. The sum of all of man's ideas together can all be applied in various situations very effectively, when we parther with God and use it according to HIS WISDOM. This is what Jesus did to effectively explain heavenly truths to earthly minds.

The Crux of the whole Parable is : We can't earn our way to get saved, it is a free gift we have received and forever it will be like that. God saves us equally because of the goodness of His grace. The first men whom God picked up by saving them to labour in His vineyard, worked hard for God but they forgot to remember that their works has no value in regard to their own salvation. The other men who came later to work realised their unworthiness to receive the great salvation reward of one days work
[i.e. the day {denarius - a days wages} in which Jesus Christ paid for our sins so that we could serve God as His children (Luke 1:71-75)] because God took them from a place where they had no work to do but just stood idly on the streets. They do their work without much expectation of reward because they believe that they are totally saved by what Jesus had done for them on the Cross. The people who have been saved for many years and have been working hard for God do not like the newly born believers to have the equal priviledges or favor with God like them. This is a wrong thinking that had come in to their mind because of living a totally work based religious life without relationship with Jesus their Lord and Saviour. But there is no difference between an veteran and a amateur in the kingdom of God in regard to salvation priviledges. Both have to call on the name of Jesus and depend on the worthiness of THE NAME OF JESUS to make their petition to be answered by God (John 15:16). Both have only "the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2, b) value of denarius priviledges. The group which works hard after they are saved cannot expect more priviledges than the group of men who are saved at last without much work done for God in their lives. The Apostle John beautifully says, "12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13). All the kingdom citizens have the equal priviledge of a day's wages which was acheived for them on the Cross of calvary. Praise the Lord!

Thanks and Blessings......


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Anonymous said...

As usual Abraham, you have posted another excellent article where you so very clearly bring out the true message of the Bible

Dennis Murphy

Abraham Israel said...

Thanks Brother Dennis for your kind words. Much Love and Blessings of the † to you........♥Abi

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