The Parable of the Vineyard can be interpreted in several ways:
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off.
And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
That parable has been cited as a caution against envy, and also as a proclamation of the generosity of God. But there’s a third approach (at least!) that one seldom hears, and is just as valuable as the others.
Each of the workers mentioned above was called to labor in the vineyard. There’s no mention of any who disdained the call…yet we may imagine that there were some who preferred to laze away the day rather than to stoop and sweat over someone else’s grape arbors. This has special force when we consider those whom the landlord approached earliest in the day. Were there any who dismissed that early summons? Did he “re-call” them at nine, or at noon, or at three, or at five? We don’t know; Jesus said nothing to that effect. Perhaps He did…but perhaps He didn’t.
Human life is limited and uncertain. He who spurns the dawn call might never receive another. We are not given to know. To be certain of his “pay,” he who is called to the vineyard must answer affirmatively. He must not wave in dismissal and say, “Maybe later.”
There’s a clear parallel with the Parable of the Virgins and the Bridegroom:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
You cannot be certain that you will be called more than once. Some are; some aren’t – and we cannot know why. To decline the first summons might be the end of your journey.
And of course, those who are called and answer affirmatively must be prepared to labor. How? It will depend on your station in life and what gifts you possess. Are you energetic? Are you articulate? Are you a particularly empathetic and compassionate soul? Are you materially fortunate? About those things, only you can be certain.
May God bless and keep you all.