The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20) contains three surprises:
1. Why does the landowner keep returning to the marketplace?
A successful landowner would know how much work needed to be completed that day and how many workers he needed to handle the job. He would have hired the required number of workers at the beginning of the day. There is no hint in the story that the landowner is young, inexperienced or mishandling the fields such that he needs to keep returning to the marketplace to hire more workers. So why does he return?
2. A steward appears in the story in vs 8.
Where has the steward been all day? It would have been the steward’s job to handle the hiring of the workers. Why wasn’t he walking around in the heat all day hiring the workers instead of the owner?
3. Why pay the last hires first in full view of everyone?
If the owner paid the workers in the order they were hired, each group would leave happy without knowing what the others received. There would be no grumbling at the steward’s pay table. Why cause unnecessary grumbling? Unless the master wants the workers who had worked all day to observe the grace he extends to others.