|Sermon Studies

Small Group Sermon Series Parables Of Jesus - Session 3

Sermon: Two Surprising Ways of the Kingdom: The Vineyard

Speaker: Greg Jao

Date: July 2, 2017

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Matthew 20:1-16 [NIV]

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.

4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’

5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.

6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.

10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.

12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?

14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.

15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Stories have a way of helping us grasp a point in a way that a direct statement or teaching might not. Jesus tells stories that portray what the kingdom of God is like that painted a contrasting picture to the stories of the Roman world his listeners lived in. “It’s not fair!” is a common statement we hear from children, in our workplaces, marriages, and all around us, and perhaps from us ourselves. Fairness may be something we come to operate by in the church as well. Jesus’ story of the landowner paints a picture of God who operates by a different economy.

Opening Questions

  1. What stories have been retold in your family that played an important role in shaping your identity?
  2. Where do you see the “guiding principle” of fairness pop up in your life - whether at home, work or the world around you?

  1. The landowner repeatedly returns to the marketplace to hire more workers though he does not necessarily have need of them. This story depicts a picture of a God who continues to search, reach out and seeks us out even when we’re lost. What draws or repels you about this picture of the kingdom of God?

  1. So often cultural norms can seep into our lives as Christians in subtle ways. Where in your Christian journey have you seen the view of meritocracy (of earning value by providing value or rewarding those who show ability or talent) at work in yourself or your relationships with others?
  2. What would it look like if our story as a congregation, as a people, and the spheres of influence that we have, was an economy of generosity and grace rather than merely what you earn or deserve?
  3. If God is a landowner like the one pictured, we are freed to also open our hands and be generous and gracious to others because we trust in God’s generous ability to give rather than our ability to produce. Where do you find your hands closing to hold back? Where is it hard for you to trust God’s generosity and ability to give?

  1. The longer people attend a church, it can be easy to begin taking on an insider mentality. Is there anyone you look around at and wonder “What are they doing here at church?”
  2. How does the church in New Providence, NJ portray the same heart as that of the landowner in Jesus’ story?


  1. What is one step you can take personally or as a group to seek out (like the landowner) and build relationships with those who do not know Jesus? This can be something the group can pray about to discern a next step.
  2. If reaching out to someone who is not a Christian is challenging, take some time to identify what makes you uncomfortable and to pray about it. What is one small step you can take towards stepping out in faith?
  3. Sometimes our culture can influence us more than we realize. What dreams and goals are you working towards to reflect more of the “American dream” than the gospel?

Pray Together

  • Name people you know personally who don’t know Jesus that the group can pray for together. There is power in prayer!
  • Follow up on any pending prayer requests from the previous session and share any new prayer requests.