By Grant Phillips
Jesus gives a comparison in Matthew 20:1-16 that I think is really telling. It's fairly long, but I have chosen to include the entire passage for convenience.
"1For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
Notice that Jesus said in Matthew 19:30, the verse just previous to our passage, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."
Then in the last verse of our passage He says, "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
Now just consider how that would fly today. Even at the time when Jesus said these words, they would have been hard to swallow. If someone tried that today however, they would have the labor boards and unions crawling through every file in their offices. But here's the kicker. Jesus isn't talking about how much one person works as opposed to another, or how much each is paid by the hours they may or may not work. He is talking about "grace."
Even though we now see that Jesus is referring to grace, we still can't help but let our minds wander back to our works.
For the unbeliever, he/she thinks they must have works to be saved, if they're interested at all in being born again in Christ. Even some Christians mistakenly think they were saved by their works and must keep their Christianity by works, failing to recall,
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6) and,
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Could it be that some Christians think that because they have been saved for many years, they are more worthy in God's eyes? I can assure you from personal experience that it is not only possible, it is definitely true. I have met many of them.
As a Christian, I am no more worthy and no more loved in God's eyes than someone who got saved two minutes ago. I am no more worthy and no more loved in God's eyes in my service to Him than someone who was saved on their death bed and had no time for Christian service. It isn't about me. It's about the grace of God.
Every child of God is loved just as much as any other. That is grace. Every child of God will be welcomed in Heaven with opened arms and just as exuberantly as another. That is grace. Every child of God will be just as much an heir as another. That is grace.
So why are there peacock Christians who walk around like they've got a two-by-four stuck up their keister? It's called pride.
Jesus was letting the disciples know that even though they were with Him from the beginning and would reign in Heaven upon twelve thrones, they were no more important than the blind man Jesus healed, or the woman with an issue of blood that He healed, or anyone else that comes to Him.
Let me make this real clear. No one can be saved apart from God's grace. No one can keep their position as a Christian apart from God's grace. Works cannot save, and works cannot keep. God has promised that if we come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, He will save. He has promised by the seal of His Holy Spirit that He will keep. Period. Anything other than that is an attempt to make God a liar.
For those of you who have been beaten in the dust from self-righteous snobs, think GRACE. There will be no one in Heaven by their own merit. It will be all grace. There will be no one in Heaven who ever even once lost their promised new birth in Christ because THEY couldn't "hold on." GOD HELD ON! GRACE!
Let us take the opening passage and praise God that He provides everything by His grace. Never feel inferior to another for any reason. You are a child of God and you are just as important to Him as any other brother or sister in Christ.
There will always be immature Christians who think they are better because they have been saved longer, or served Christ longer, or are serving Him more "prestigiously" (by their estimation), or are wealthier, or whatever. I'm sure you've heard the saying, "I wish I could buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." Well, apart from the grace of God, we all fall short.
I'm sure at this point someone is thinking about rewards that Christ will give to Christians per 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. There will be rewards, but not based upon OUR guidelines. They will be administered, again, by God's grace for faithfulness that HE rewards, not on what WE think we should be rewarded for. Many of us will be rewarded and surprised. Also, many of us will lose rewards, and I'm sure, surprised, but our position as a loved heir intact.
So put your shoulders back and stand erect, not through pride, but through thanksgiving. You are a child of the King of Kings! You are a child of God!