The Basis of God’s Rewards

MEMORY VERSE: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” —Psalm 103:8, RSV

MATTHEW 20:1-16

THE basis of God’s rewards is his own wisdom, justice, and generosity. (Matt. 20:14-16) The Parable of the Penny, which is the scriptural background for today’s lesson, can best be understood when we recognize that it is an enlargement upon what Jesus had said in the preceding chapter with respect to the rewards which would accrue to those who dedicated their all to the service of the divine cause.

Turning back to that chapter, we find the account of the young rich man who went to the Master and asked him what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life. There was some dialog between the two, and Jesus’ final answer to the young man’s question was, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”—Matt. 19:21

Jesus’ disciples overheard this conversation and found it difficult to understand. Jesus had not talked to them about “treasure in heaven,” and they wondered, for they thought they were to share with Jesus in an earthly kingdom. Peter, speaking for them all, said, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee [as you asked the young rich man to do]; what shall we have therefore?”—Matt. 19:27

Jesus’ reply to this question was, “verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:28) This was the future reward which Jesus promised, and concerning the present he said, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.”—Matt. 19:29

In Jesus’ reply to the disciples we find a clear statement of the divine provision for his vineyard workers of the Gospel Age. And then Jesus went on to illustrate this by his Parable of the Penny. This parable really begins with the last verse of the 19th chapter, and it ends with the 16th verse of the next chapter, the statement concerning the last being first, and the first being last appearing in both these texts, thus bracketing this revealing parable.

The 2nd verse of the parable (Matt. 20:1) opens with the meaningful word “for,” indicating that what follows is based upon that which precedes: “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.” Jesus’ immediate disciples were the first to be hired, the promise of the reward they were to receive if faithful being confirmed at Pentecost.

In the interpretation of any parable it is essential to remember the basic features of the divine plan, for parables do not teach lessons of truth that are not clearly outlined in that plan. The divine plan for the followers of Jesus is that they shall be united with him in glory for the judging and blessing of all the families of the earth, and as a present inheritance they are assured of compensating joys and blessings far in excess of any advantages which they may give up in this life in order to be a true follower of Jesus. And they are promised eternal life, yea, immortality on the divine plane with Jesus.

Paul explains that we are all called in the one hope of our calling. There is not a different provision for the faithful at this end of the age than was made for the disciples at the beginning of the age. This is one of the features stressed in the parable. Both the “heavenly treasure” and the rich present inheritance of the new creation are the same for all.

The parable indicates that the first ones who were “hired” complained that they were given no more than those who labored a shorter period of time. Various explanations of this have been suggested; but in any case, we know that those who gain the heavenly reward with Jesus will not then murmur.


What is the basis of God’s rewards?

Show the relationship between the parable of the lesson and the disciple’s question, “What shall we have therefore?” —Matt. 19:2

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |