“Parable of Vineyard Workers”
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Boy, do I hate the reality of this passage. If we’re being honest, Christians, as a group, tend to dislike this passage. It’s great to preach it. The thought that a non-believer is one decision away from entering the Kingdom is liberating. But how can a lifetime of good works be equal to someone who accepts Christ later in life and has not “sacrificed” like I have? Like, my house in heaven should be nicer than other peoples. I should have better things waiting for me because I am living “right.” Other people can get in but they can’t have the same amenities as me… Kinda joking, kinda not. The world says that those who finish first win. Not so shockingly, Jesus says the opposite. I used to go to the “Jesus camps” and the message would always come down to my works did not matter. You either believe in God or you don’t. This literally infuriated me. Why had I lived my whole life as the goody two shoes? What’s the point? God does not recognize my deeds. There is no reward for being “better” than those around me. Other people can live every single day of their life ignoring God and ignoring good deeds, then accept Christ the day they die and we are to receive the same in heaven? That’s one hell of a sales pitch to a non-believer but what about me? What about all the times I have done the right thing instead of the wrong thing? What about me?
There have been times in my life where I allowed this confusion and overall frustration to dictate my behavior. For several years, I lived how I wanted to. I let my anger and lack of understanding about grace (top 3 favorite words) cloud my decisions. There was no accountability and I understood my relationship with Jesus to be merit-based. Goodness=prize. When I wanted something I had to act accordingly. Over the last three to four years I have been learning about grace and what a servants heart should look like. It’s not a merit-based relationship. It’s freedom based. I didn’t have to win anymore.
The need to win and finish first is a growing problem. We are all trying to get ahead in work, in school, at home, on socials, in all aspects of life. You will not find many people that are more competitive than me. It is truly a curse. I want to win at everything. Many of you may be that way too. I spent so much time in athletics and school where the goal was winning. Things were waiting for me when I won. Jesus is counter to that. The truth about God is this, there is no scoreboard. There is no scoreboard because we already won. #Jesus.
The whole point of this parable is to teach us to look inward and stop looking around to see what everyone else is getting or doing. God does not care about the good works we do, but He does pay attention to WHY we do them. He notices a selfless attitude. It makes sense to Him when we forget competition and live for Him because we are free to do so. I think this whole first being last thing refers to our ridiculous pride issue as a people. We have to take credit. We need to be seen. Does this sound familiar, “God if I do this act of service will you….?” Or “God I served at the food bank last week, why have I not gotten my reward?” My favorite is, “God I have prayed this same prayer for weeks and I have not received.” News flash, you’re not in charge. So show up and do things out of kindness. Do them not for a perceived reward but instead because acts of service bring us closer to God.
Here is what I now understand. God does bless us. One, because He loves us and blessing is a byproduct. But also because when we lose ourselves in pursuit of Him, He smiles. I absolutely battle with pride issues, but I have learned to pray to forget myself. I have crazy faith in the idea that I can lose myself in service to others. God gives us that ability if we surrender to it. Drop your bias and judgment. Make yourself last and love being there. Your reward in heaven will be worth it. There will be no comparison. In the end, we all get to win.