Read Matthew 20:1-16
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went.
"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
7"'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (NIV)
This passage on the surface looks like it is a passage written to the Jews who were resentful of the Christians. It would have been quite obvious that those who labored all day were the Jews. They were the first to come to walk with God. Now, at the last hour, the Gentiles are being received into God’s blessings with the same benefits.
But what about our churches today. Do those who have been in churches for many years, have at times, a resentment of new members coming in and doing things differently. I have seen this in all too many a congregation, especially smaller congregations where 1 or 2 families make us most of the members.
The question for us as we read this is do we resent people coming to Christ later in life? Is there a sense of they had fun while we worked going on in our minds? This is something that always has puzzled me. Why we think that those living out of the church have better lives and more fun than those in the church is a puzzle. God’s laws and rules are not meant to restrict and deprive us of fun. They are to give us boundaries in order to live the best life possible.
I did a Bible study years ago on this passage that brought up the views of people who have actually been day workers. When I worked for a contractor in Georgia, we used to go to places and hire day labors. They would gather and wait for someone to come and offer them a day’s work.
Well, in this Bible study, people from South America asked people in the United States if they have ever had to stand around hoping to be hired so they could feed their family. In many parts of South and Central America, if you don’t get money today, you cannot buy food for tomorrow. This person went on to say that when you don’t get hired in the morning, you become concerned with how you will feed your family. And even if you get hired later, you are concerned that it will not be enough money to buy enough food.
He pointed out in the parable Jesus told that those hired later did not know how much they would make. They were simply told they would be paid “whatever is right.” Most would assume that it would be less than a day’s pay. So, even though they were at work, they were worried. He said, I would rather work all day knowing that I can provide for my family.
We need to learn to welcome all to faith in Christ. People who come later in life are not getting out of something. I had the privilege of baptizing a gentleman in hospice care. I met him while visiting a member of the church. I still remember his words today after 20 some years. His first words after being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit was, “Is this what I missed my whole life?”
We need to be people who welcome all to Christ, no matter who different they are to us, when they come to Christ or anything. We need to rejoice with people who accept Christ. When Jesus told the parable of the last sheep in Luke 15, he said this, “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” If there is joy in heaven, shouldn’t there be joy on earth.
Blessings and Peace