Parables #8 – Study Questions

Kyle Bartholic   -  

Laborers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16

INTRODUCTION:  The picture the parable presents uses realistic but exaggerated features. The owner is probably reasonably well-off, but not so wealthy that he leaves oversight of his vineyard to agents. The picture of someone hiring day laborers from the market at a time of need is realistic, as is the wage paid. Two items are exaggerations. The number of hirings is excessive and hardly conceivable because of the time involved in going back and forth from the vineyard, unless the vineyard was immediately adjacent to the market. Why were the last hired not seen earlier and why could the owner not calculate his needs better? Such questions are pertinent only if one thinks parables are always true to life. They are not. The repeated hirings are a setup to enable the parable to make its point. Also unrealistic is the equal pay of all the laborers, the very point of the parable. Once again we see that parables use everyday materials but do not relate everyday occurrences.[1] In this unique parable, we see both the generosity of the Father and the reality that is the work of the Father that brings and bestows honor on the workers. Simply, the vineyard owner’s generosity and grace are reflective of God’s generosity and grace towards you and me. Grace is a powerful thing. So powerful that it has the power to change hearts. As we consider the nature of this parable, we can get lost in all the detail questions of the hirings and why everyone got the same wage. To do that would be to miss to the significance of the parable. Jesus wanted them and wants us to get a better picture of our Heavenly Father. He is abundantly and overwhelmingly generous and gracious. In fact, it is his grace that opens the doors of our hearts to his transforming power. Again, grace changes hearts.



GETTING STARTED – As you begin your group time, talk about this definition of grace, getting something you don’t deserve. What resonates with you? How might you change it? Or, how do you understand the concept of grace? Then, talk about your experience with grace. When and how have you experienced it in your relationships? Remember, mercy and grace go together, but they are unique. Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. And, mercy is not getting something you deserve. It is a small word distinction but a significant experiential distinction.


IN THE WORD –   Let’s dig back into the passage. It is important to strengthen our muscles in reading God’s Word. On Sunday, we walked through the passage in the sermon. Hopefully, that helped you to see the landmarks of the passage with fresh eyes. Now, with your group, go back through it and see what God is saying to you specifically.

First, before you read the passage, take a moment to ask God’s Spirit to quiet your mind and heart and to illuminate the text to you. Second, read the passage aloud to the group. Then, follow the simple method below. (O.P.A)

Observe: Make 8-10 observations from the passage. Pay close attention to observe and note repeated words and phrases, names, places, and themes.



Principles: From your list of observations, what patterns or big ideas do you see emerging? Can you distill it down into 2-4 big idea truths?



Apply: Moving from your list of principles, it is time to apply God’s Word. Remember, we believe that God’s Word is living and active and that it can change the way we live Monday- Friday. What is one tangible way to apply a truth from your list above?




[1] Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 369–370.