There is a parable about the master of a great vineyard. Early in the morning, he goes out seeking laborers to work for him. He finds some workers in the marketplace, they agree on a wage and head off to begin their work. It’s easy to focus on this first group; they bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat (Matthew 20:12.) We tend to highlight these individuals; the early bird gets the worm.
As the day wore on, the master continued to go to the marketplace to seek laborers. At the third, sixth and ninth hour, he added more workers. Only, with these workers, he sent them into the field without an agreed upon wage. They were simply promised that they would be given “what is right.” A person would certainly have to view the master as someone they could trust or else their labor may be in vain.
Finally, at the eleventh hour, the master returns to the marketplace. With only an hour left in the work day, there are still people roaming around. When asked why they had spent the entire day idle, their answer is heart-wrenching. “Because no one hired us,” they say. No one wanted them. They had stood unwanted and overlooked hour after hour.
I’ve often sympathized with the first ones hired. They were the ones in the vineyard bright and early. They worked the entire day in the heat of summer. Or, sometimes, I would admire the faith of those next few groups. The master chose them and they set to work without knowing how they would be compensated. They trusted him to be just in his dealings with them.
Yet, this time, as I read the passage (Matthew 20:1-16,) my heart was stirred for the last group – those chosen at the eleventh hour. I began to brainstorm all of the reasons that someone would be not chosen hour after hour.
Had they proven untrustworthy in the past? Were they too old, too young, too small? Was their strength, endurance or work ethic being judged based on their appearance? Did they show up late to the marketplace? Were they withdrawn and quiet? Did they fail to sell themselves properly? Perhaps, they didn’t know the right people.
And then I began to think about those who, today, may feel like they’re at the eleventh hour. They’ve watched as others seem to have been chosen to work in the vineyard – to serve the Master. The clock keeps ticking, others keep getting chosen and, still, they wait.
They wonder if they’re too bad or too broken to be used by God. Perhaps, they fear they’ve wasted too many years and it’s simply too late. Maybe others have come, given them the once over and deemed them unworthy. It could be that, at one time, they were the ones in the field at first light. Now, they find themselves in a different season and wonder if their usefulness is over.
In Philippians, Paul is weighing the pros and cons of remaining in the flesh or going to be with Christ. To be with Christ, he says, is far better. To remain in the flesh, however, means fruitful labor (Philippians 1:22.) If there is, at any point, no longer work for us to do, God will call us home. None of us remain here to simply stand idle in the marketplace and pass the time. If we are still breathing then there is, not just labor, but fruitful labor for us to do.
God has work for you to do. You are not too damaged, too old, or too far gone for Him to use. You are not too late to the party, too awkward or too much for Him. If you have ever wondered if God can use you, then let Matthew 20:7 encourage your heart.
He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.”
He chooses you, too. If no one else in the entire world chooses you. If everyone else only sees your flaws. When others don’t even give you a second glance. When you look in the mirror and don’t see anything desirable. God chooses you, too.
Now, get out there and be fruitful.
You are loved. ❤