The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,
Painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn,
Painted in 1637,
Oil on panel
© St Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,
Painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn,
Painted in 1637,
Oil on panel
© St Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Gospel of 19 August 2020

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said to his disciples: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, "You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage." So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, "Why have you been standing here idle all day?" "Because no one has hired us" they answered. He said to them, "You go into my vineyard too." In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first." So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. "The men who came last" they said "have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day's work in all the heat." He answered one of them and said, "My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?" Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.'

Reflection on the Painting

In this painting by Rembrandt, we see the landowner paying his workers at the end of the day. Night is nearly upon us. The weak evening light illuminates the table where his secretary sits with the account book open. The workers to the right talk among themselves, as two workers question the landowner. The landowner had hired workers throughout the day and paid them all the same wage, whether they worked all day or only an hour. The workers who worked all day are angry and we can see them questioning their pay to the landowner. As this painting is rather small (only 12 by 16 inches; 30 by 45cm), as a viewer we feel like we are peering into the darkened room, watching what is going on. The overall lack of colour enhances this sense that we are simply looking on, and not participating. A fleeing cat is directly underneath the workers who are unhappy. A dog (sign of fidelity), sits directly underneath the other workers, who were happy with their pay.

The landowner gave the same pay to everyone. God gives his love to every person too, without exception. We can accept this love... or question it and not accept it… Some people will accept this love early in life, and carry it throughout their lives; others will come to it later in life… this love can't be earned… it can only be accepted, as it is freely given by God to everyone. The fact that the latecomers in our parable were only employed at the last hour does not make their needs any less than those who came earlier!

Share this Gospel Reading

Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?

Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Readings related to Matthew 20:1-16

23 August 2023

Matthew 20:1-16

Why be envious because I am generous?

8 March 2023

Matthew 20:17-28

They will condemn the Son of Man to death

3 March 2021

Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem

17 August 2022

Matthew 20:1-16

You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a...

Join our community

In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: 

The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Our goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith.

CONNECT WITH US

Join over 70,000 people who receive our daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection

Skip to content