The big challenge to bringing you a children’s sermon on Matthew 20:1-16 is finding a way to make it really kid friendly. In part this is just me grousing, or having a momentary failure of imagination. But like anyone who writes, I have times when I know what I have to write but I find myself sitting in front of a blank screen watching the curser blink.
On. Off. On. Off.
To be fair to myself, even though I love this parable, it’s about how much people get paid for their work, whether it is an hourly wage or a daily wage. That’s pretty far from the average kid’s consciousness.
My mind does think of some ways to get closer to a kid’s value system. Maybe I could change the context a bit and make cookies the form of payment promised. But will you, my faithful reader, put up with a children’s sermon that plays rather fast and loose with the biblical details?
And then I can hear the child psychologists pointing out those famous experiments where kids at a certain age prove quite unwilling to wait for two cookies later if there’s one cookie offered right now. The deferred gratification involved in working working now for money later is kind of a learned thing.
What to do, what to do. Guess I better just start writing my children’s sermon on Matthew 20:11-16 with a straightforward retelling, and see what happens.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 20:1-16
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you in worship today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Usually I tell you stories about things that Jesus and his friends did. But Jesus also loved to tell his friends stories. Today’s reading from the Gospel is a story that Jesus told. Here’s how I imagine Jesus happened to tell that story.
Thinking about the future
One day Jesus saw his friends Peter, James, John, and Andrew laughing and giving each other high fives.
“Hey guys!” Jesus said. “You sure look happy. What are you talking about?”
“Oh hi, Jesus,” said Peter. “We were talking about life with you in heaven!”
“Interesting,” said Jesus. “That’s what got you so excited?”
“Yeah!” said Peter. “We were saying how great it is that we started following you before anybody else did. So when we get to heaven we’ll get more rewards than anybody!”
All four of them looked at each other with big silly grins. Then they shouted “Cha-ching!” and gave each other another high five.
“Wait a minute you guys,” said Jesus, “that’s not exactly how it— I know: let me tell you a story.”
A farmer and some workers
Once upon a time, there was a farmer. It was harvest time in his apple orchard. He needed lots of workers to pick all his apples.
Early in the morning he went to the town square. People always came to the town square when they were looking for work.
“Hey friends!” said the farmer. “You want a job picking apples?”
“Sure!” said one. “How much you paying?”
The farmer said “Come pick my apples today and I’ll pay you each one hundred dollars.”
And they all went to the farmer’s orchard to pick apples.
Mid-morning, the farmer saw that he didn’t have nearly enough apple pickers. So he went back to the town square. He found a few more people looking for work.
So the farmer said again, “Hey friends! You want a job picking apples?”
“Sure!” they said, and off they went to the orchard.
The farmer still needed more workers. So at lunch time, and in the afternoon, and at dinner time, back he went to the town square.
Each time the farmer said, “Hey friends! You want a job picking apples?”
“Sure!” they said, and off they went to the orchard.
Finally it was sundown. The farmer said to all his workers, “Okay it’s time to go home! Thanks for picking my apples! But first I need to give you your pay. Let’s start with those who started working at dinner time.”
When they came up to his table, he gave each of them one hundred dollars.
“Wow!” said one of them. “We only worked for a couple hours! Thanks for being so generous!”
Then the farmer paid the people who came during the afternoon. Then he paid the people who came at lunch time. Then he paid the people who came mid-morning.
Now, the workers who started in the early morning were watching all this. They saw how the people who came at the end of the day got as much money as the farmer had promised them in the early early morning.
So they started to talk to each other. “Hey! If he gave that much to people who just came at the end of the day, I bet he’s going to give us a lot more! We’ve been working all day long!”
Then one of them shouted “Cha-ching!” and they all gave each other high fives. And then it was time for them to collect their pay.
They came up to the farmer’s table, and he counted out the money. “There you are, my friends!” the farmer said. “One hundred dollars for each of you. Thanks for your hard work.”
“Hey, no fair!” said one worker. “That’s the same as you gave everybody else!” said another.
“Yeah–even those guys that just came at the end,” said a third. “You owe us more than that!”
“Do I?” said the farmer. “I paid you exactly what you agreed to. As for the other people, it’s my money. Seems like I can do what I want with my own money. Are you mad at me for being generous?”
I wonder how Peter and the others felt when they heard Jesus’ story?
I wonder if in heaven everybody gets exactly the same good things from Jesus?
I wonder if there are other reasons to stay close to Jesus besides rewards in heaven?
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
- You can support my work over on Patreon. (Just $1 per month brings my children’s sermons straight to your inbox about two minutes after they go live. And every little bit keeps me going…)