I want to look at a particular group of people found in the parable of the ‘Workers in the Field’ in Matthew and draw out some encouraging points pertaining to the hour of history that we live in today and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The individuals I will focus on are commonly known as the 11th hour laborers.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells the story of a landowner who goes out early in the morning and hires people to work in his field for a certain amount of compensation. He then goes out a few hours later and hires more laborers at the same price as those who started working earlier. He continues to go out every few hours and hire more workers, up until the last hour of the day. When the day ends, the laborers who worked only one hour in the cool of the day, were paid first and were also paid the same amount as those who agreed to work from the beginning of the day. The laborers who bore the largest part of the burden in the heat of the day, felt it was only fair to receive more. Yet the landowner said he desired to be gracious and generous to the last workers and pay them a full days wages first.
Let’s look at these 11th hour laborers a little more closely. There are a few advantages that they had in comparison to those who were hired earlier in the day. First off, it is important to notice that the 11th hour laborers did not replace the earlier laborers but they worked upon what had already been done. Those who were hired earlier in the day worked in the field with less help. As the day went on, more and more laborers were added to the field. Those who were hired later on in the day worked with more co-workers then the ones who were hired first. This is beneficial on a number of levels such as, increased motivation, greater support and the task at hand being finished sooner. Similarly, we can see these same benefits today when it comes to the task of world evangelization. Today, there are more missionaries working on the field and a greater emphasis on finishing the task of the Great Commission. Throughout history, there have been moves of God that would send out thousands, and even tens of thousands of people onto the mission field; however, there has never been such a vast number of missionaries on the field as there is today; nor has there been such a vast number of people financially and spiritually supporting these missionaries. There are more countries around the world sending out missionaries at a greater rate then ever before—including, Palestine, China, Brazil, South Korea and Africa, to name just a few.
Another advantage that 11th hour laborers had in this parable is that they worked in the cool of the day. If you have ever worked all day outside, then you know first-hand how much easier it is to work in the cool of the day. Typically you can get more done in less time because the sun is not sapping all your energy away. I believe we are working in the cool of the day for a number of reasons. Although globally, persecution and martyrdom is happening at a greater rate than in past centuries, we have also entered into an age that makes promoting and sharing the gospel to the masses much easier. Christians today have the benefit of more wealth and tools than ever before in spreading the gospel. Because of our advancements in transportation, communication and media, we have an unparalleled convenience in spreading the gospel than the missionaries of old. Today, anyone can literally be anywhere in the world within 24hrs for a only a few thousand dollars. We can instantly communicate to and from almost any destination in the world. We have more bibles in more languages than in any other time. Media and technology advancement is allowing the gospel to be transported and communicated faster and more effectively than any other time in human history. Because of modern advancements, we have a grasp on which ethnic people groups do not have a viable witness for Jesus. Thisdata helps us to focus our efforts and work together in completingthe task sooner. These advantages and others that I did not mention make it much easier for believers to fulfill the Great Commission.
One last and encouraging point is that despite the advantages of having more tools, wealth and co-laborers on the field, 11th hour laborers receive the same reward as those who didn’t have such luxury. All those who take the invitation to labor in the Lords harvest field, will be rewarded the same as the great missionaries of old. Whether that person was a first century apostle, a Moravian from Germany, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, or a young believer today, the reward is the same. What a promise to those who are now working in the 11th hour of human history! I want to encourage you that we are living in the most unique time in human history. Jesus’ call to leave all and follow him is still calling people from all sorts of backgrounds, education and economic levels to go and make disciples of all nations. Perhaps he is calling you to come work in his harvest field. To no longer be idle concerning laboring for lost souls, particularly those lost souls who do not currently have a witness of the gospel. You can be apart of what He is doing on the field in this last hour, and you will be rewarded with the same rewards as those who started “earlier in the day.” I encourage you to abandon yourself with joy and eagerness to take part of laboring in His field, for truly the harvest is plentiful and the pay is out of this world!