Workers in the Vineyard

Matt 20:1 – 16


Props: Toys as above or similar, bunch of $100 bills (Monopoly money), container of peppermints or similar.

Do any of you boys and girls like playing? What do you play with? [Get responses.] And what about working? Who enjoys that? You do?! What do you do? [Get responses.] Well today we are going to be thinking about work.

This is a story that Jesus told in Matt 20. Well, I guess it's not quite the same, as Jesus didn't mention Teddy! Teddy owned a large vineyard. Who knows what a ‘vineyard’ is? Well ... close. It’s not where they make the wine, but it’s where they grow the grapes. This morning, Teddy looked out over his vineyard and noticed that all the grapes were growing beautifully, and were just ready for picking. “How am I going to pick all these grapes in time?” Teddy asked himself.

So Teddy went out into the street and found Brownie and Pinkie standing around. “Hi Brownie and Pinkie,” he said. “How would you like to come into my vineyard and pick grapes for me today? I’ll pay you $100 each.” “Wow!” said Brownie and Pinkie. “How generous! We’ll be in on that!” And off they went to pick grapes.

About midday, Teddy saw that although the bears were working hard, they were never going to finish in time. So he went out into the street again and found Pandy standing there. “Hi Pandy,” he said. “How would you like to come into my vineyard and pick grapes for me today? I’ll pay you well.” “Sure,” said Pandy. And off he went to pick grapes.

Finally, about 5, an hour before knock-off time, Teddy went out into the street again and found Noddy standing there, nodding off. “Hi Noddy,” he said. “How would you like to come into my vineyard and pick grapes for me? I’ll pay you a good wage.” “Fine,” said Noddy. And off he went to pick grapes.

At 6 o’clock it was time to stop work, and the workers came to Teddy to be paid. Noddy came first. “Thank you Noddy for a good hour’s work,” said Teddy. “Here is $100 for you.” Noddy did a little jump for joy, and ran off amazed. Next came Pandy. “Well done, Pandy,” said Teddy. “Here is your pay,” and he handed him $100. Pandy went off very happily! [In the actual parable, we are not told how much the ‘middle’ workers were paid. My guess is that it was the same amount, but for the purpose of the story, it’s not worth making an issue of it.] Finally Brownie and Pinkie came up. Now you remember they had agreed to work the whole day for $100, but having seen what the others were paid, they now thought perhaps they would get more. “You’ve been a great help to me, Brownie and Pinkie,” said Teddy. “Here is the $100 each we agreed on.” “But!” they said, “we have been working all day under the hot sun – look how brown and pink we are! And you paid that – that – flophead $100 for just working one hour!” “You remember our agreement,” said Teddy, “how you agreed to work all day for $100, and how generous I was in paying that. Now if I choose to be even more generous to Noddy, then that’s no business of yours.” So off they went grumbling.

And that’s the end of the story. But what does it mean?

I think Jesus was making two points. The first is easy. Jesus is saying that God is like the owner of the vineyard (good one Teddy!). He is more kind and generous than we could ever believe or deserve. The second point is more difficult ... .

Here I have a container of peppermints. I keep them in my car ... they are very tasty. I think I’ll have one now. Yum ... can’t you just see how tasty this one is? Now, I am feeling very generous today. You can have one each – everybody who wants one. You can eat them now if you like. ... Who enjoyed that? Well, since I’m feeling very generous, I‘m going to give the rest of the peppermints to Sophie. What do the rest of you think of that? Not much? You can’t really complain: you‘ve all had one peppermint more than you would have had otherwise!

In his story, I think Jesus was saying that we often go through life thinking ‘what’s in this for me? what am I going to get out of this? And God wants us to serve him, but not for what we get out of it – rather because we love him.

So go back to your seats now, and perhaps you might like to be special friends to Sophie!!!