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For what had the first laborers agreed with the landowner to work?  What was a denarius, and what does it represent in the parable?  See NAS text note, and cf. Mat 19:27.  What made them suppose that they would receive more than they had agreed to?  See Mat 20:9.  How does their expectation reflect the nature of rewards on earth that are always given comparatively in relation to others, and how does that contrast with the nature of rewards in heaven?  Think: on earth where the worldly nature of man’s fallen state governs, is it possible for one to receive a great reward if someone else does not receive less?  Is it this way in heaven where the nature of God governs?  On earth, which worker has the larger office: the supervisor or the employee?  The master or the servant?  The first or the last?  In heaven, which worker has the larger “office”?  See Mat 20:25-28, Mar 9:35.  What does this teach us about how the nature of God which governs in heaven precludes men’s notions of rewards that they have on earth?  What does it teach us about how the rewards of heaven and earth are diametrically opposed, so that it is impossible for those who seek a reward after the manner of this world to ever receive a heavenly reward?  See Mar 10:44.  Although the nature of rewards in heaven are different from rewards on earth, should we be concerned that we will somehow be “cheated” by God and the real treasures of heaven that are found by being last and the servant of all will be inferior to those that men seek upon the earth by being first and ruler of all?  See Mat 19:21, 6:20, Luk 12:33, 1Ti 6:17-19 and consider: since rewards on earth are always judged comparatively in relation to others, can such riches last any longer than those with whom we compare ourselves, who in fact are perishing?  Think: how do the worldly riches of kings who lived 400 years ago compare with the comforts that even those who live in poverty have today?  In eternity, of what value will the riches that have set one apart from others in this age be in regard to true wealth when the streets of heaven are paved with gold (Rev 21:21)?  Or in regard to healthcare and insurance when there is no sickness or disease? Or in regard to a nice home when all of heaven is a paradise? Or in regard to security when there is no evil?  Or in regard to a good education when all shall know the truth? Or in regard to leisure time when we shall have all eternity to ponder and explore and fathom all the depths of God’s nature that we find manifested in the creation of this world and that intrigues and fascinates people?

What was the reaction of the first workers when they too received a denarius?  See Mat 20:11.  What does their reaction reveal about man’s mistaken expectations in regard to heavenly rewards?  Did they grumble at the landowner because he had dealt with them unjustly and they did not receive their due?  Why did they grumble at him?  So, were they unhappy because they received too little, or because others received too much?  See Mat 20:12.  How is their reaction like that of the older brother of the prodigal son in Luk 15:25-30?  What do we call the sinful response of our fallen nature to another’s fortune or blessing, and what does the Bible call it?  See Mat 20:15 and the NAS text note there as well as Mar 7:22 and text note.  In what way are earthly rewards ultimately based on envy?  Consider again: is it possible to receive a great reward on earth if there are not others to envy that reward who receive less?  Because God is generous (lit. good, Mat 20:15) and raises up the poor and lowly and exalts the humble, what will be the inevitable result of judging our heavenly reward as we do on earth by comparing it to others’?  Here on earth, the last, the poor and the humble envy the first, the rich and the proud; what does this parable teach us about who will envy whom in heaven, and why?  In this context, what does Luk 11:34 (NAS “bad” is literally “evil”) teach us about the importance of overcoming our envy and accepting that God’s goodness and grace extends even to those who are not our equals in service to Him?[1]  In light of the nature of heavenly rewards, what is the only way to obtain a great reward in heaven?  See 1Pe 5:6, Mat 20:25-28.

[1] Consider too that envy is one of the seven deadly sins, along with pride, greed, lust, wrath, sloth and gluttony.

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