The Workers in The Vineyard

November 12, 2017

Objectives: Students Will


        Greet students and make sure they know who the leaders are.

        Ask for a show of hands of students who were in the worship service last Sunday. Ask

those who raise their hands if anything caught their attention.

Explain that all during October we heard stories from the Old Testament book of Exodus about women in the exodus story, the story about how God delivered the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. This month, starting today, we’re going to be exploring some of Jesus’ parables. These are found in the New Testament, in the gospels--the stories about Jesus’ life and teaching. A parable is a short story with a moral or lesson. Jesus told lots of parables, and many of them taught about the reign of God.

NAMES AND WARMUP        The Wild Wind Blows Name Edition

        With the group all in a circle and one less chair than participants (including the leaders), explain that we’re going to play several rounds of “The Wild Wind Blows.” Someone in the middle will say, “The wild wind blows for . . .” and then name a characteristic of a name, something like “ . . . everyone whose first name is only one syllable” or “. . .  everyone whose last name has only one vowel.” If it applies to you, you get up and move to a different chair--but not the chair directly next to you. The person left in the middle announces the next “wild wind blows.” Everything should somehow be about names. After each round, one of the leaders should ask one of the students who moved to say their name.



        Have everyone stand in front of their chairs with enough room to move a couple of feet in either direction. Explain that we’re going to have a contest to see who can stand on one foot the longest. Explain--and this is critical--that the person or people who can stand on one foot the longest will get a prize: a 2-pack of Starbursts.

        Explain the rules: when you say “go,” students raise one leg behind them and grab it with one of their hands, so that they are standing only on the other foot, as in the common running stretch. Begin counting in increments in 10 seconds. If a student’s second foot touches the floor they are out. If they lean on another person or chair or wall they’re out. Tell students to keep track of how long they can do it.

        After 60 seconds call time. Congratulate everybody and begin handing out prizes:

Kids should be complaining at this point that this is unfair. Ask why: what makes this unfair. Emphasize that you gave the ones who stood the longest the prize you promised.

Explain that they got what they earned but that you felt like being generous to the others. Ask, “Are fairness and generosity the same thing?”


Recruit ten people to play the parts in the melodrama and distribute copies of the script to all of them.

Explain the stage directions at the top of the script and then turn them loose.

After students have performed the melodrama, give everybody a big round of applause.

Explain that this melodrama is based on a parable that Jesus told. Parables are short stories with a clear point, and Jesus used these a lot in his teaching. We’re going to spend each Sunday in November exploring one of Jesus’ parables. This one is called the parable of the workers in the vineyard. It’s found in the gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament in the Bible, and it goes like this: [display the parable from the computer slide onto the screen at this point. A leader can read the parable, or a student can. Just be sure it’s read slowly and loud enough for everyone to hear.

Matthew 20:1-16 (Common English Bible translation)

[Jesus said] The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard.

Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’  And they went.

Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion.

Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’

[Then Jesus said] “So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

Ask these questions about the parable. Set some groundrules about raising your hand and listening to others who are speaking. Encourage lively discussion, but don’t permit rudeness.


        Divide the group into small groups based on the number of leaders you have. Do this by numbering off or whatever method you prefer.

Distribute one of the case studies to each group. There are three of them, so if you have more than three small groups, use one of the case studies twice. Give groups about 10 minutes to read the case study aloud and then discuss it.

Reconvene the large group and ask each group to share their case study and what they concluded about it.

TOOK                HANDOUT

        Distribute the  handout, ask students to follow the prompts about the first and the last. Give them a few minutes and then ask them to compare their list with someone close to them. Finish by asking for some students to share their lists.

        Dismiss students with “The peace of Christ be with you.”


The left side of the room is the vineyard. The middle of the room is the marketplace. All the WORKERS start in the marketplace. Victorious Vinny starts at the vineyard.




        WORKERS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, AND 8

NARRATOR                This is what the reign of God looks like. One day a landowner

named VICTORIOUS VINNY got up really early in the morning and went to

the marketplace to hire workers for VICTORIOUS VINNY’s Vine Village, the

vineyard that had been his family’s business since his great grandfather,

VICTORIOUS VINNY Senior Senior first bought the land. He met two

people right away.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Hey, are you guys looking for work?

WORKER 1                For sure! Do you have any?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Does a three-legged duck walk sideways? You bet I do!

WORKER 2                Sweeeeet! How much can you pay?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Oh I pay the going rate. I’m a straight shooter and won’t do you dirty.

Seventy two dollars and fifty cents.

WORKER 2                Nice. I’m all over that.

WORKER 1                Me too. Let’s do this.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Welcome to the VICTORIOUS VINNY’s Vine Village team, guys. This way to


NARRATOR                Victorious Vinny took the two workers to his vineyard. They worked for a

few early morning hours, which is the best time to work, because it’s not

too hot yet. But by about 9:00 in the morning Victorious Vinny could tell

that these two workers were not going to be enough to get everything


VICTORIOUS VINNY        You two are doing excellent work, really terrific. I couldn’t be happier.

WORKER 2 (to WORKER 1)        Sweet! Maybe he’s giving us a bonus.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Here’s the thing though. Victorious Vinny’s Vine Village is vast. Very vast.

Very, verily, very, very vast. I need some more hands if I’m going to get all

of the day’s work done before dark. You two keep at it, I’ll be right back.

NARRATOR                Victorious Vinny ventured back to the marketplace. By this time in the

morning, there were lots of people hanging around.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Hey, hey, hey everybody! It’s early yet, and I’ve got a full day’s work

available. Anybody interested?

WORKER 3                Yeah, man. I’m the hardest worker you’ll find here. When can I start?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Well, right now, of course!

WORKER 4                Okay, okay, but do you pay fairly? Are you one of those business owners

who likes to skimp on wages?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        What?! Does a three-eyed mongoose eat its breakfast in a tree? Of course

not! I pay fair and I pay right. You don’t have to worry about fair pay at


NARRATOR                Victorious Vinny took his two new workers back to Victorious Vinny’s Vine

Village, and they got straight to work. The pace of work picked up, but by

noon it still wasn’t going fast enough.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        You all weren’t kidding around when you said you were good workers. My

stars! Look at all this you got done already!

WORKER 4 (to worker 2)        Do I sense a bonus coming on?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Here’s the thing though. Victorious Vinny’s Vine Village is vast. Very vast.

Very, verily, very, very vast. I need some more hands if I’m going to get all

of the day’s work done before dark. You four keep at it, I’ll be right back.

NARRATOR                Back to the marketplace he went. Many people had been hired out for the

day, but there was still a robust crowd of people there.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Gather round, have you heard the word? Victorious Vinny’s Vine Village is

the best place to work if you’re looking for physical labor that pays a wage

that’s considered right and just by prevailing market standards. Word.

WORKER 5                Who could argue with that?

WORKER 6                Not me. That’s the best offer we’ve had all day. It certainly beats shoveling

horse manure? Wait. It’s not shoveling horse manure is it?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Shoooot. Does a six-eared porpoise swim in a wetsuit? Come on, man!

You’re going to be harvesting grapes at VICTORIOUS VINNY’S VINE


NARRATOR                Back they all went to Victorious Vinny’s Vine Village to start work on the

second half of the day. After a little after lunch nap, all six of the workers attacked the vines with verve and vivacity, so that Victorious Vinny was very pleased. But at 3:00 he could see that a couple more hands would be good, so he want back to the marketplace to hire more workers. The original draft of this script included this scene, in which Victorious Vinny offers work to people at a fair wage, which he guarantees with some corny saying about a seven-toed elephant dancing on its head before screaming VICTORIOUS VINNY’S VINE VILLAGE! But we cut it for time.

Nevertheless, two more workers joined the crew. [If nobody from the class joins the crew] I said, “Two more workers joined the crew!”

Thank you.

Now, near the end of the work day, as the sun was close to setting, Victorious Vinny gathered his tired workers.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Listen you guys. All of you are just killing it out here. The six o’clockers,

the nine o’clockers, the 12 o’clockers, and the three o’clockers (sorry about

your scene getting cut). We are sooo close to done. I think a couple more

hands will put us over the finish line. Because Victorious Vinny’s Vine

Village is vast. Very vast. Very, verily, very, very vast. I need some more

hands if I’m going to get all of the day’s work done before dark. You eight

keep at it, I’ll be right back.

NARRATOR                It was slim pickin’s at the marketplace at that late hour. The only people

left were workers not fit to be hired by anyone else that day.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Well look at this! Here it is 5:00, the very end of a perfectly good work day,

and you all are just staaaaaandin’ around like you got nothin’ to do. What


WORKER 7                Don’t ask me, boss. I’ve been out here all day looking for work, but nobody

will hire me. I think it’s because of my bad leg.

WORKER 8                Oh, I know why nobody’s hired me all day. Because I have a record. One

time, just one time I stole a little from my employer. Word got out, and

ever since nobody will hire me. I’m about to start begging.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Well don’t start just yet, because I could use you both. You see, Victorious

Vinny’s Vine Village is trying to wrap up a full day’s work, and a few extra

hands will seal the deal for us. Are you in?

WORKER 8                Wait, are you serious?

VICTORIOUS VINNY        As cinnamon spice cake, friend.

WORKER 7                What kind of pay are we talking at this point? Chump change?

VICTORIOUS                Come on, does an eight-fingered fruit fly--

WORKER 8                We got it. We got it.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Alright then, no time to waste. Let’s get gettin’ to--


NARRATOR                Everybody pitched in and worked hard the last hour of the day, even

the ones who had been there since six in the morning, and they got everything done. Victorious Vinny was vindicated in his hiring strategy. He called all his workers together to pay everybody their wages.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Alright everybody, great work! Now if you’ll all make a line here, starting

with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first, I’ll pay you all what you’re due.

NARRATOR                Victorious Vinny paid the workers hired at 5:00 first.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Here you two go. Seventy two dollars and fifty cents.

WORKER 8                No, this can’t be right.

WORKER 7                Woo hoo! A full day’s wages for just one hour of work?! Just take it and

let’s go!

NARRATOR                Next Victorious Vinny paid the workers hired at 3:00. The original draft of

this script contained a very moving scene with these two workers, one where, because he also paid them seventy two dollars and fifty cents, for only three hours of work, they laughed and cried and skipped away into the sunset, but it was cut for budgetary reasons. You two can go sit down now.

Thank you.

Next Victorious Vinny paid the workers he’d hired at noon.

WORKER 5                Wow, Victorious Vinny, you took care of those other workers very

generously. Now I know we weren’t shoveling horse manure, but that was

pretty back-breaking work for, like, seven hours. I know you’ll take care of us.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        You know I will! Here’s seventy two dollars and fifty cents!

WORKER 6                Wait a minute. That’s the same as you paid those other guys who worked

less than us.        

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Yes it is.

WORKER 5                And yet it’s still a full-day’s wage for half a day’s work.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Yes it is.

NARRATOR                Next Victorious Vinny paid the workers he’d hired at nine in the morning.

They had been at it for 9 hours. They were tired and hungry.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Great work you two. Here is seventy two dollars and fifty cents for each of

you. I hope we can work together again.

WORKER 3                Don’t count on it.

WORKER 4                Yeah, right. Seventy two dollars and fifty cents is nothing to sneeze at for

a day’s work, but compared to what you paid everybody else it’s a total


NARRATOR                Those two workers stomped away mad. And tired. And hungry. Finally it

was time to pay those very first workers. They started work in the dark

and they ended work in the dark. 12 hours of hard labor. I think you know what’s coming.

WORKER 1                Here comes that bonus you were talking about before.

WORKER 2                No doubt. After what he’s paid everybody else, there’s no way he pays us

anything less than double.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Okay you two. Here is the seventy two dollars and fifty cents I promised to

pay you. You certainly earned it.

WORKER 2                Grumble! Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble!

WORKER 1                No way Victorious Vinny! This is so not victorious. Are you trying to pay us

the same wage you paid that criminal and that other one with the bad leg who only worked one hour in the cool of twilight? After we spent the whole day out here under the punishing sun? Nuh uh. No way. Not happening.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Oh, but it is victorious. So victorious. I haven’t done anything wrong here.

What did I tell you I would pay you?

WORKER 1                Seventy two dollars and fifty cents, but--

VICTORIOUS VINNY        And isn’t that the going rate for a day’s labor?

WORKER 1                Well, yes, but--

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Then take what belongs to you and go.

WORKER 2                This ain’t right.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Why not? I want to pay these last two who were hired the same as I’m

paying you. Don’t I have a right to do that? After all, it is my money, isn’t it?

WORKER 2                Doesn’t matter.

VICTORIOUS VINNY        Oh, I see. You’re jealous because I’m being generous.

NARRATOR                The last will be first and the first will be last. This is what the reign of

God looks like.

The Parable of The Workers in The Vineyard

Read the scenarios below and suggest what a generous response might be.

Megan and her brother Jason both have big homework projects due on Monday, and they’re both planning on using Saturday afternoon to get them done. But at about 1:00 on Saturday their dad asks them to help him clean up the garage, and he promises they will all go out for ice cream when it’s done.

Megan sets aside her homework project and helps her dad as soon as he asks. Jason spends three hours finishing his homework project, then comes to help with the cleanup for the last 30 minutes before they’re done.

Megan silently hopes her dad will only take her for ice cream, since Jason only helped for 30 minutes. After all, she’s going to have to finish her homework on Sunday. What could her dad do to be generous?

Karl lucked into two Hamilton tickets on very short notice. He’s torn about which of his two best friends to invite, though. Megan has been his friend since preschool, because their parents are good friends. They go to different schools now, but their families still see each other all the time, and he and Megan currently have a 45 day Snapchat streak. Karl knows Megan has been to Hamilton with her parents, and the two of them play the soundtrack every time they get together.

Karl met Andre just last week at basketball practice, and they really hit it off. They sit next to each other in several classes, and they’ve been having lunch at the same table every day since that first practice. They have a ton of stuff in common: they talk every day about their favorite Simpsons episodes and their favorite Cubs players (Karl’s favorite is Javier Baez, Andre’s is Jason Heyward). They also both love the Hamilton soundtrack and quote it to each other all the time.

Is inviting Megan or Andre more generous?

Enjolique is directing one of the student one-act plays, and she is torn between two fellow students for the lead role. Kendra has been in several plays, and everybody knows she’s a good actress. Mary has never been in a play before, but Enjolique was impressed by the intensity of her audition. She learned afterwards that Mary spent hours preparing her audition and has been telling people that she wants the part more than anything. Mary had never seen the script prior to the audition, and Enjolique knows that if she doesn’t cast Mary one of the other student directors will.

Should generosity play a role in Enjolique’s casting decision? How would it?

The First And The Last

In the left column below, make a list of all the people who count as “last” in the groups you spend time in. This could be people who are “last” in money, in health, in popularity, or any other way you think about. Then in the right column make a list of the people we say are “first” in life. Again, that could mean “first” with money, health, popularity, or any other way you want to think of it.



Jesus says in this parable that in God’s reign that last will be first and the first will be last. Pick an example from your first list and one from your second list. What would have to happen for them to switch places?

Which list do you see yourself in? How do you feel about Jesus statement that the first will be last and the last first?