Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
A pastor friend of mine had the difficult task of officiating over the funeral of a grandfather and his 16-year-old grandson. Both Christians. Both outstanding people. Both loved by many. The young teenager, however, had recently accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. The two were killed in an automobile accident in which the grandson was driving. Accidentally, the young driver ran a red light and unexpectedly, an eighteen wheeler t-boned the old Ford pick-up. The mother of the 16-year-old was afraid the boy had not been a Christian long enough. She knew her father had served the Lord endlessly for most of his life. Would there be reward for her son in Heaven? Had her son been a Christian long enough to enter Heaven?
The pastor stood before a grieving family, trying to find words of hope and encouragement; trying to find some way to ease the pain of all who sat before identical coffins in an overcrowded sanctuary. He started with the parable in Matthew 20. The parable Jesus tells is in response to a question by Peter in Matthew 19:27, “Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
A landowner needs to hire workers to harvest grapes. I imagine it like a day pool of laborers – people waiting to do jobs for the day. The landowner hired a group of workers for a common day pay and took them into the fields. Several hours later, he went back to the day pool and hired some more workers. He took them to the fields. Again, he went back to the day pool area several hours later and hired some more workers. He took them to the fields. And, one hour before the end of the day, he went back to the labor pool and hired a final group of workers.
At the end of the day, he paid every worker the day’s wage. Those who had started first thing in the morning were angry. They had worked all day! It didn’t seem fair that the workers who came last would be paid the same as them. The landowner asked if they had agreed to work for one denarius. They had; then, as long as he had not cheated anyone, what did it matter?
What counts in the kingdom of God is not service hours but the attitude of the heart. There are no time cards to punch in or out. Although the time on earth seems very small for the young 16-year-old in comparison to his grandfather’s 80 years, God receives them both into the Kingdom of Heaven by His grace which He extends to those who love Jesus Christ. In the divine sense, neither life ended too late or too soon. Both grandfather and grandson will be welcomed into Heaven in the same manner.
The wonderful gift of grace from God is measured not by the time we put in; but by the heart we have while we put in the time.
Today, thank God that your heart matters to Him. The point of Jesus’ parable is to help us understand, the love and grace God extends to us should be the reason for our labor, not the result of our labor.