Vineyard Workers Parable

Focus: God's Undeserved Favor - Bible Lesson and Game

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(You might decide to teach the lesson after the game. Described, below.)

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus taught using parables to help people understand something about himself and/or the kingdom of heaven. In the parable that we're about to read, Jesus wants us to understand something about the kingdom of heaven. 

Words you may need to explain before the lesson: 
Denarius - a day's pay.
Landowner - the person that owned the vineyard.
Foreman - the man the landowner placed in charge of the workers. 
Vineyard - a place where grapes are grown.

Read Matthew 20:1-16 from a child-friendly Bible or tell it in your own words. 

Discuss: In this parable the workers all received the same amount of pay, even though some of them worked much longer than the others. 

Do you think this was fair? Why or why not?

What do you suppose Jesus wanted us to understand about the kingdom of heaven from this parable? 

Jesus wants us to know that some people will believe and follow Jesus early in life; while others will believe later in life. But the reward will be the same: to spend eternity with Jesus. (Everyone will spend eternity somewhere, either in God's presence united with him in love, or separated from God's love.) It is not the length of time that we've believed in Jesus or the amount of work that we've done for him that makes us right with God. The fact is, none of us deserve God's favor. In this parable the workers received a wage for their work. We too have a wage that is coming to us. The Bible says our wage is death, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23). We die because we sin. It is God's gift of grace, his undeserved favor, that allows us to live with him eternally. Jesus died on the cross in our place. He took the punishment we deserve for sinning against God. He did this because he loves us and wants us to follow and obey him.

Romans 9:14-15 says, "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' " 

No one knows how many years God gives us to live. So, if you feel Jesus tugging on your heart and calling you to trust in him, then don't put off following him today. The Bible warns us by saying, ". . . now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2. 

Have you trusted in Jesus to be your Savior and Forever Friend? If not, you can do so now.

Suggested Prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe that you died for me. I believe that you are Lord of all creation. Forgive my sin. Thank you for taking the punishment I deserve for sinning. Help me to turn from my sin to follow and obey you all the days of my life. Amen.

Here's a promise from God, the Bible says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13.

Vineyard Workers Bible Game

(You might decide to play the game before the lesson.)

Set Up: Establish a large circular playing area. Mark it off using flags, ropes, or hoses. In the center of the playing area spread items such as various sizes of balls, blocks, cardboard tubes, etc. Give each player a large paper bag. Have them write their name on it.

How To Play: Tell the players the object of the game is to pickup as many items as possible in the amount of time they are given. Have the players line up on the outside edge of the circle. Place bags behind each player. Number off the players 1-4 so that each player will be numbered 1, 2, 3, or 4. Tell them you will call out one of the numbers and the players with that number will be given a few seconds to pick up some of the items from the center of the circle and place them in their bag. Players may only grab one item at a time, then return to the circle to put it in the bag, and return to the field to collect another item. (During play teacher may call out different modes of entering the circle. For example, hopping, skipping, broad jumping, etc.) Players may continue to collect items until the teacher blows a whistle or yells stop (give the players a few seconds). Teacher then calls another number and play proceeds as before. Vary the amount of time for the different numbered players to collect items. Be obvious that some players are receiving more time to collect items than other players. 

When the circle is cleared, have the players count their items. Make a big deal that some of them collected a lot of items and really deserve a reward. Then start giving the rewards (candy works well), starting with the ones that gathered the least amount. Say, "You've earned your reward and I will give each of you one piece of candy." Then ask the players, "If they earned one piece, how much should I give to the players that collected more items?" "Two, three, four?", "No, I will only give one piece to everyone." 

If you are playing the game before the lesson, begin the lesson now. If you are playing the game after the lesson, discuss the following:

How is our game like the parable of the workers in the vineyard? (Some of the players worked longer than the others)

Was our game fair or unfair? (Why or why not)

How will this game help you remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard? (To remember that none of us deserve to go to heaven. It is not the amount of work we do for God or how long we have followed him, but it is God's undeserved favor, his kindness and love, he died in our place, that allows us into his loving presence for eternity.)

Copyright 2005 Sarah A. Keith

If you like this lesson and game, then you'll love the The Parables of Jesus.
"Vineyard Workers" is not included in "The Parables of Jesus." 

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