Life Notes—November 1, 2012
“Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
When I was a child I always wanted the biggest present under the Christmas tree to be for me (okay, I still do…) If one of my brothers or sister had a bigger present than me, although I never would have verbalized it, a part of me felt cheated. As parents, Carrie and I always tried to spend about the same amount for Christmas on each child, as well as to have about the same number of gifts for each. After all, that’s only fair, isn’t it?
The 20th chapter of Matthew begins with Jesus telling a parable of laborers in a vineyard. The vineyard owner hires some workers at the beginning of the day, some in the middle and some with only an hour left to work, yet he pays them all the same. Those who worked all day complained about not getting paid more than those who only worked an hour. With today’s labor laws, this employer would be facing an unfair labor practices lawsuit. How unfair is it to pay these workers the same for vastly different amounts of work? By earthly standards it is very unfair—maybe even discriminatory and abusive.
But Jesus concludes the parable with one of the most confounding lines of his ministry by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” I think this line clearly reveals something important about the Kingdom of God: human standards do not apply. Can you imagine awarding a gold medal to the Olympic runner who finishes last? Or awarding all runners the same prize? It wouldn’t be fair, at least not by our definition of fairness.
But what of the Kingdom of God? Perhaps the reward of most value is the salvation that gets us there—salvation we cannot earn no matter how hard we try. What if that is all that matters? It wouldn’t matter whether one receives their salvation as a baby or as they draw their last breath. The ultimate reward is the same, for there is no greater or lesser salvation, and I believe that is the lesson of this parable. When we try to measure God’s generosity by human standards we are likely to feel cheated. If we want to unlock the secrets of the Kingdom, we must look beyond our human definitions of fair and unfair, right and wrong, to the broader, more comprehensive perspective of our Creator.
Tom is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. Mitch will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. Both will give the third in their “Beautiful and Abundant” series, titled, “Is it fair?”
Come home to church this Sunday, where the first get to sit in the last pews…
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator