Children’s Sermon

Matthew 20:1-16

A Story about Forgiveness

By Dell Smith Klein

In some towns in United States, farm workers wait on street corners hoping that someone will offer to hire them for a few hours, or for the whole day. Sometimes, they wait a short time. Sometimes, no one seems to be hiring and they wait and wait and wait.

Jesus once told a story about the owner of a vineyard, and some people who were waiting for a job. The owner of the vineyard went early in the morning to the hiring place and hired a few men. He said he would pay one denarius for the work. A denarius was a coin that was worth quite a bit of money––as much money as a man would usually be paid for a whole day’s work. It was enough money for a man to take care of his family for a day.

As the men worked, the owner of the vineyard probably realized those men couldn’t get the job done by themselves. He went back and hired more people. Later, he went back again. That time he asked, “Why are you standing around doing nothing?” The men answered, “Because no one has hired us.” So he hired them. And a short time before the end of the day he went back and hired even more people.

Finally when evening came, the owner of the vineyard ordered all of the men to be paid for their work. But some people who had worked all day were upset because the ones who worked only an hour were paid the same amount. Those workers said,
“These last have spent one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat!” (vs. 12) They just didn’t think it was fair that someone who had worked for an hour would be paid as much as someone who had worked all day.

Think about it this way. You and your brother (or sister) discover that there is only one piece of cake and you both want it. Your mom tells you to cut the cake in half, and then she lets your brother choose which piece of cake he’ll eat. Did that ever happen to you? (Allow children to respond.) If your mom does that, she is just trying to help you to be fair to each other.

But our story from the Bible isn’t about fairness. Our story about the workers in the vineyard is about God––and God’s generosity.

The Bible says, “for all have sinned….” (Romans 3:23) Every one of us has sinned in some way –sneaked a cookie, cheated on a test, or told a lie. We know that those things are wrong but we’ve done them anyway. God loves us and he forgives all those sins when we ask him to forgive us.

In our story about the workers in the vineyard there is something more important than fairness––something more than cutting the cake so that both get the same size piece.

The story of the workers in the vineyard is about forgiveness. When God forgives our sins, he forgives them all. A brand new Christian is as welcome to God as the person who has known God a long, long time. See…that’s not about fairness. That is about forgiveness.


Almighty God, thank you for forgiving us when we do things that are wrong. You love us just the same whether we have known about you for a long time, or a little while. Thank you. Amen.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible

Copyright 2013, Richard Niell Donovan