When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last to be hired and ending with the first.”
You would think those who started working first would get paid first. Naturally, we would reward those who have worked the longest and the hardest. Jesus begins to reveal the answer to Peter’s original question, “Look, we have given up everything and followed You—what then will there be for us?” He did not call for the disciples to went into the vineyard first, to reward them before everyone else. Rather, “the first will be last and the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16). Why?
The dominion of Jesus, or the Kingdom of God, is upside-down compared to the way the empires of this world operate. Jesus rewards the last first, so that no one can boast in the gift of eternal life, saying that we somehow earned it. He rewards the first last so that jealousy, discrimination, racism, prejudice and comparison are weeded out of our lives. Even with having purpose and being in the vineyard of God’s Kingdom, we are not immune to weeds of selfishness. Even a high purpose, like Christ’s for us, can be used to bring injustice or manipulation of power.
We can look down on others who have not been a Christian as long as we have or we could be jealous towards those whom God elevates to more prominence than ourselves. Jesus is making it clear that the Kingdom of heaven is not like this—that eternal life is a gift we get because of His love, not our performance or length of work. First and last are no different to God when it comes to eternal life with Him. This usurps the pride of the enemy that has crept into the human race. Jesus was doing away with the disease of jealousy, rivalry and victory at the expense of another human being. His Kingdom is fair, just and right. His reward of eternal life in His perfect love is for all those who say yes.
When evening comes, the most important thing is that we are those who hear the call of the Master to come in from His vineyard. May we be found in the right vineyard and not worry who is rewarded first or last, for all will receive the greatest reward a human could ever receive.
May jealousy, racism, prejudice, and manipulation not be found in our hearts as we do the great work He has called us to.
// Pastor Josh Kelsey