“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Matthew 19:30
Huh, what the hey? When I read this statement on its own I honestly don’t know what it means; it could mean a great deal of things. To read it on its own it hardly seems fair. The parable of the vineyard gave me clarity. I’m going to paraphrase it in the interest of keeping things shorter. Please read Matthew 20 on your own to know the exact wording.
Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who went out in the morning to hire some day laborers to work his vineyard. He agreed with them on a set amount that they would earn at the end of the day’s work. They went straight to work.
He hired more men in need of work at different hours of the day; and they agree that rather than a set wage, the laborers will receive whatever is right.
At the end of the 12 hour work day the landowner instructed that the laborers be paid; beginning with the last to start work, and ending with the first to start work. The laborers that had worked for only one hour earned the same wage, as the laborers that had worked for 12 hours.
Those laborers who thought that they toiled longer felt entitlement to receive more, and were angered that the landowner would reward them equally.
The landowner answered them that he was doing no wrong, they had an agreement and it is lawful for him to do as he wishes with his own things. He basically told them that they were evil; and even though they worked really hard, I’m pretty sure that they weren’t to be asked to come back.
“So the last will be the first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 20:16
If we are truthful we can admit that it’s easy to become resentful when someone who we deem underserving receives the same reward that we do. That’s when we need to pray to ask that be taken from our minds and our hearts.
Sometimes “religion” makes us feel entitled. Just because we lead a “holy” life, are very involved in our religion and know the bible inside and out; doesn’t give us entitlement to get more, or even to get into the kingdom.
What entitles us to the kingdom is God's grace it's not our due. It's our faith not our works. It’s being grateful for what we have and not begrudging others for what they have. It’s loving, the unlovable. It’s reaching, the unreachable. It’s being truly excited to know that the person, who has been down and out and who has done the unforgivable, is forgiven and that they will be receiving the same reward that we will.
The reward is the same whether we’ve known the Lord all our lives, or only at the end of our life. The reward is heaven!
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