Who does the landowner in the parable represent, and does the vineyard represent the whole world, or what? Cf. Isa 5:1-7, Mat 21:33-41. How does the vineyard and work to which God calls His laborers differ from the field and work to which the god of this age calls laborers? Contrast Joh 15:1-6 and Luk 15:15-16. What does Rom 6:16-18 teach us about the inevitability of serving one of two masters? Cf. Mat 6:24. Whom then shall we serve? Cf. Jos 24:15. Who do the early laborers represent? In what sense do they represent the Jews? Cf. Luk 15:25-29, Rom 9:1-5. In what sense do they represent the first Christians, and especially the apostles? See Mat 19:27-30. In what sense do they represent those who are born into a Christian family, raised in the knowledge of the truth, and serve God faithfully all their lives? In regard to the Jews, the first Christians, and those who serve God faithfully all their lives, what does “early in the morning” (lit. “together with the dawn / breaking of the day”) represent? Cf. Isa 9:2. In regard to each of these, who do those laborers who were called at the sixth, ninth, and eleventh hour represent? Cf. Act 10:44-45, Mat 22:9, Luk 14:21-24, 23:39-44. From where were they hired? See Mat 20:3. What does the marketplace represent? Cf. Act 17:17. What is the significance that before being hired they are described as “idle” (Mat 20:3,6)? Notice that this word is always used negatively and means useless or lazy; see Mat 12:36, 1Ti 5:13, Tit 1:12, Jam 2:20, 2Pe 1:8. How does this describe everyone prior to their being called to enter into God’s vineyard to work, whose way of life is in the world? Are we “idle” in the world, or at work in God’s vineyard? Is there any reward for those who are unwilling to labor for even an hour in God’s vineyard when called by Him? “A man may go idle to hell; but he that will go to heaven, must be busy” (Matthew Henry).
For what period of time were the workers hired? See Mat 20:2. What does that day represent? Cf. Joh 9:4, 11:9. What encouragement should we receive that whatever hardships and burdens we bear in this life, that it is but for a day, and like unto the work of a laborer that shall soon be over so that we may find rest and receive our reward? Cf. 2Co 4:16-18. In light of eternity, can even an entire lifetime of service to God be compared to a day? In this light, what then should be our attitude toward our labors in this life for God’s kingdom? See 1Co 15:58, Gal 6:9, 2Th 3:13, Jam 5:7-11.
What does evening in Mat 20:8 represent? Cf. Rom 2:16, 1Co 4:5, 2Co 5:10. While workers were hired into the landowner’s vineyard as late as the eleventh hour, what is the significance that none were added at the twelfth hour? See 2Co 6:2; cf. Gen 7:16, Mat 25:10-12, Luke 13:24-27,30, Heb 9:27. What is the significance that it was up to the landowner to determine when the day’s work was done? Cf. Mat 24:36. Who does the foreman (NIV = manager, KJV = steward) in Mat 20:8 represent, and what is the significance that it is he who gives the laborers their wages? See Joh 5:22-23, Act 10:42, 17:31, Rom 2:16, 1Co 4:5, 2Co 5:10, 2Ti 4:1. What does the call of the foreman to the workers represent? See Mat 24:31, 1Th 4:16, Rev 1:10. What is the significance that the landowner paid the laborers their wages before the sun set? See Deut 24:15, Pro 3:27-28, Jer 22:13, Jam 5:4. What is the spiritual significance that the wages of those he hired did not remain with him all night till the next day? See Lev 19:13, Luk 23:43, 2Co 5:8, Phil 1:23. What does this teach us about the notion held by some that the soul of the dead sleeps in the grave and does not enter into any reward until that night is past and the day of resurrection dawns?
How did the landowner specify that the laborers were to be paid? See Mat 20:8. What is the significance of the order that he wanted them paid? Consider that if the first had been paid first and gone their way, would they have come to know the generosity of the landowner in the same way, or come to have the same expectation for an even greater reward than they had agreed to? What does this teach us about God’s express intention to reveal His nature to those whom He calls to service—His nature that is quite contrary to their own?