Lesson Twelve


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Memory Verse: Ephesians 2:8
Further Study: Matthew 19:23-30; 20:1-16; Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 396-404

The story is told of an eight-year-old boy who played on a baseball team. Well, at least he was part of the team. He couldn’t hit, couldn’t catch, and he didn’t really understand the game. He must have had company because the team hadn’t won a game all season. It was the last inning in the last game of the season and amazingly the team was only one run behind. The coach had some semblance of hope in his heart, that maybe, just maybe they could pull off a win. He looked at the bench and the kid that was up next was this little boy. The coach’s heart sank, but he called him up to bat. The boy surprised everyone by getting a hit and successfully ran to first base, his face beaming with pride as his team cheered his feat.

The next batter was the team’s heavy hitter. This was it!

The next batter was the team’s heavy hitter. This was it! The tying run was on base, and the best of the best at bat. Sure enough, the boy connected with the ball. The kid who had never made a hit or caught a ball started running toward second base just as the ball came in his direction. In triumph, he stopped his run, leaped up just as the ball soared over his head, and caught the ball! The boy stood beaming from ear-to-ear with the ball in his hand—his first catch ever, and unfortunately also the third out, causing his team to lose. After a moment of stunned silence, the coach began to clap. He encouraged the team to cheer. The boy, having no idea what he’d done, grinned through it all.

The parable of the workers is a bit like this story. It’s about grace—getting what one doesn’t deserve. It’s about being chosen even when it’s next to last. It’s about teamwork—doing your best even when someone else can do it better. And it’s about not complaining about the reward or the win but cheering on no matter what happens.

I think when I have read this parable before, I, like the disciple Peter, have always thought I identified most with the first group of workers. These are the chosen ones, the gifted ones, the leaders, those everyone wants on their team. They work hard, they’re multi-talented, and, of course, even though they don’t really think about it, assume they will receive the best and brightest reward, even if it’s one in the distant future—the star-studded crown in the heavenly courts, or in the case of Peter, a throne with his name on it.

But the attitude one really should desire is of those in the subsequent groups, because these are the ones who wait patiently to be chosen; the ones who aren’t focused on the reward because they’re willing to let the landowner decide what is best. They are grateful simply to be called for whatever the Master has planned. The parable of the workers isn’t about fairness or rewards, but about service and gratitude. We serve because we are thankful to the Landowner. We do whatever is asked or wait patiently until we are called. 

We do whatever is asked or wait patiently until we are called. 

For someone like me, this is a hard lesson. I want to serve so much so, I am often the first with my hand up. I believe I’ve been gifted by God and thus it is imperative that I use my gifts because He must want me to. But it isn’t about me deciding how God should use my talents, but waiting to see what His plan is for me. Maybe you can relate. Or maybe you’re someone in the second group hoping for someone to call your name. Sometimes we need to recognize that God needs those who have never caught a ball to play in the game instead of the heavy hitter. Sometimes being comfortable on the sidelines is exactly where God wants us.

May we always serve with an attitude of gratitude. What is interesting to remember is that those crowns—our eventual reward—won’t stay on our heads for long. For when we realize the cost, in gratitude we will throw them at Jesus’ feet, and it’s there we are renewed.

Digging Deeper 

While the parable is about grace, it is also about rewards. This parable is connected to the previous chapter where we read the story of the rich young ruler, but the chapter break doesn’t allow us to quickly discern this. Jesus tells this parable in response to the disciple’s question related to their own reward. If the rich young ruler was judged for not giving up his wealth and thus getting no reward, then it stands to logic that the disciples who had given up everything would get an enormous reward. But the parable explains that the way heaven rewards and the way we think we should be rewarded is much different.

“If God were to deal with men merely on the basis of strict justice, none could ever qualify for the incomparably generous rewards of heaven and eternity. It is not learning, position, talent, length of time, amount of labor, or visible results that count in the sight of Heaven, but the spirit of willingness in which we take up our appointed task, and the faithfulness with which we pursue them.”*

*The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 464.

Making it Real

For family worship, make a list of impossible tasks. Do three or four depending on how much time you have. Tell the family that if each person can do all the tasks successfully, there will be a reward (insert whatever you like here). Here’s a sample of what could be done or create your own.

  1. Walk across the room (at least six to 10 feet) with three books balanced on your head without dropping a book.
  2. Blindfolded, draw a picture of a person walking a dog with the hand they don’t usually use for drawing/writing.
  3. Using only your feet, play catch with another person tossing the ball at least three times without dropping it.

And to make it even harder, put a time on the tasks, such as do this in one minute.

After trying to complete the tasks, obviously the reward is no longer valid. Except that you offer the reward anyway. Talk about how it felt to be asked to do something almost impossible. And then how it felt to be rewarded even when they hadn’t done the work. Talk about the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Explain how God offers grace to us as long as we give ourselves in service to Him.



Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, who’s delighting everyone with her smiles. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.


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