“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion he sent them into his vineyard. “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went. “Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’ “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied. “He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’ “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:1-16, Common English Bible).
There is a joke I heard a few years back. I don’t know who should get the credit for it. I just know it isn’t me.
There was once a preacher and a New York City cab driver who died and went to heaven. St. Peter greeted them at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter ushered both through and was showing them around. They came up on a grand mansion. It was a beautiful home. They gazed on the huge house and St. Peter said to the cab driver, “This, is your new home.” The cab driver was ecstatic. He ran inside and started going through the house looking at every room.
Meanwhile, back outside, St. Peter and the preacher started making their way further into the tour. Eventually they came up on a nice but small cottage. St. Peter told the preacher that this was his new home. The preacher then said to St. Peter, “I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. I am thankful to be here, I really am. But that guy, that cab driver gets a mansion and after all the work I did for the Kingdom, I get this small cottage? That just doesn’t seem right. It is nice, but still….”
St. Peter then replied, “Well Preacher, we work on results around here. Yes, you did a lot for the Kingdom. You preached every week. But the thing is, when you preached people slept. When he drove, people prayed!”
Thankfully, our lesson for today lets us in on the truth. We all receive the same reward whether we are a preacher or a cab driver or anything else. If we receive Jesus Christ, no matter what we do and no matter when we come to the faith, our reward will be the same.
Is it right that the thief on the cross gets the same eternal reward as one of the heroes of the Bible like Simon Peter, James, John or one of the other disciples? What about the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene? What about the Apostle Paul getting the same reward as some of the Christians he himself admitted he persecuted?
Does the person who made a death-bed confession of faith in Jesus Christ deserve the same reward as the person who has been a faithful, church-attending Christian all their life?
That is the real point in the lesson today. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is that we all enter the vineyard at different times in life. But, regardless of the time we entered, we all get the same reward.
It may not sound very fair and perhaps it isn’t to our human understandings. The thing is, however, none of us deserve what we get from God. We all get that reward because of grace. Grace is the gift of God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing that we can do to deserve God’s grace no matter when we showed up to work. If we came early in the morning, we get the free gift of grace. If we came at the midday point of our lives, we get grace. If we came at the end of the day, we get grace. For all, it is undeserved. For all who believe it is a treasured gift from God.
So the person who says, with faith in their hearts, I believe, will get the same reward as those who have spent all our days following Jesus Christ by faith. And grace belongs to God. God is free to dispense that grace in any way God pleases. I am just thankful that “by faith we are saved through faith.”
What time did you report to work?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved