As if a kick in the pants to get going, I woke up this morning to an email from a guy who is currently reading YJITS asking me what I thought the laborers parable in Matthew 20 meant. Here was my take:
As for the kingdom parable of Matthew 20, I think it's immediate referent is Jesus' bringing in of "sinners" to the kingdom, not just faithful Jews. The laborers got paid the same, whether they'd worked one hour or all day. This is Jesus' way of saying God is generous and that his kingdom is for everyone who trusts in Christ, not just people who've grown up religious or always been well behaved, etc. The grumbling of the long-laborers at the end is like the older brother's grumbling to the father in the parable of the Lost Son.
The wide-frame referent is that the kingdom is for prodigals and older brothers alike, and you don't get in by "working hard" or some sort of seniority program but rather by being "hired by the master." So whether you've grown up in the church and been a good boy all your life or whether you were lost as a goose only to repent and trust Jesus at the last minute, all that God has is yours in Christ.