Notes: November 21, 2009

“The first shall be last…”

The parable of Matthew 20 should be connected with the end of Chapter19 for it illustrates the point that rewards in heaven are disbursed as God wills, and not based on any human perception of fairness.

Matthew 20:1-16

  • The householder, the lord of the vineyard, contracts for day laborers, early in the morning (v. 1-2).
  • Later in the day, he hired more laborers, but the salary was not confirmed. In good faith, he offered a fair wage; and in good faith the additional laborers agreed to his terms as set about working the rest of the day. Some of them worked 3 hours less than the original crew; some worked 6 hours less; some worked 9 hours less; and some worked only 1 hour that day (v. 3-7).
  • According to law, day wages were paid at the end of the workday. But the law did not dictate any order in which to pay the laborers. The owner decided to pay the most recently hired first, paying those who worked the longest last. He decided to pay everyone the same amount, a penny for the day (v. 9).
  • Those hired earliest in the day, those who worked the most hours, being paid last saw that all the partial day laborers received equal payment, and they felt cheated (v. 11-12).
  • The owner argues that they received everything they agreed to, and that he had not cheated them. Moreover he contends that as the landowner, he has every right to do what he will with his money and his business (v.13-15).
  • This illustrates the principle that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Many are called, but few are chosen.

Meditation Points:

Does God use some men for only a brief period of time on earth? Are some of God’s workers signally blessed for only a brief service? Is God unfair to anyone?

Long life? Less useful? Yet every one of the elect shall be saved. And none dishonored.

Many are the workers in God’s kingdom. But few are the choice servants who receive special recognition and reward.