The labourers stand in the marketplace, waiting to be hired. If they do a day’s work, they can expect to earn one denarius – just enough to support a family for a day. If they don’t find work, they and their families will go hungry today. When the landowner hires the men to work in his vineyard, he is offering them dignity and purpose, as well as a wage.
This parable of the kingdom is a parable of God’s generosity to us. God calls each one of us to work in the vineyard as disciples of Christ, helping to build the kingdom of heaven. Some disciples respond quickly and eagerly, others take longer to hear God’s call. But we don’t ‘earn’ our place in the kingdom– it’s always God’s gift. The reward is the same for every disciple, because God gives to each one the greatest gift that he could possibly give – eternal life with him. When God is so generous to us, how can we possibly be envious of one another?