So the last will be first, and the first last. Matthew 20:16.
The life success trainers are concerned about the time and opportunity in life. Time is a token of success. But in Christian life you are lucky, even if you spend your youthfulness on unworthy things, you missed a lot of opportunities and are late in life.
The righteousness of God is different that of man. But the indigestive thing is we can’t understand it. Our logic is not enough to realize the acts and thoughts of God. Parable of Laborers in vineyard is the most confusing for me. This parable is a response to Peter’s questions in Matthew 19:27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”. Definitely Peter would like to know what will be his reward his reward for following a nomad and eccentric young carpenter.
As the laborers said the work was heavy in scorching heat. But the reward too was generous, one denarius a day is the wage for a Roman soldier that time. As the parable describes four group of laborers were hired starting from the morning and the last group just before the sunset. First group was agreed on one denarius were the last group on ‘what ever is right’. All the groups were paid one denarius each and that caused a dissatisfaction from the first group and they point out it straight away : ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
In fact there is no question of righteousness as everyone received as agreed. The landowners decision showed his mercy. Definitely as Paul says “It does not, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” Romans 9:15-16.
But to be never late in our life we have to keep in mind a few things. The first one is we never compare us with others. In this parable the first group was angry because they compare themselves with others, unless they should be satisfied as they got what was agreed. Jesus’ another parable of two men pray in church is a good demonstration of this. In Luke 18, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ His first statement came from his heart, as we speak from the fullness of heart. Thinking we are not like other men is a dangerous thought. And Jesus narrates humble prayer of tax collector and assures that he left church justified.
Second thing we have to keep in mind is we are all “unworthy servants”. So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. Luke 17:10. So do we consider us that we worked hard and very well the whole day? Unfortunately how we can say our whole day is more worthy than the last comer’s few hours? Good to keep a word of Jesus in our mind: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Matthew 7:22. So many things we consider very important is not that much worthy in Kingdom of Heaven.
The third point is why we cant be more generous than we righteous are? Try to think as a Christian should be, the extra denarius given is not from his treasury, not of his hard labor. What it would matter to you if the ointment wont sells for three hundred denarii? John 12:1-8. So we need a different attitude in life, a different perspective.
Forgive and reconcile
The sunset came, everyone must be relaxed by the end of the day. But still the first group keeps all their tiresome experience in their mind. During the course of life we may embrace many bitter experiences. But there are many methods to heal the wounds instead of keeping it in mind and being jealous. As in Galatians 5 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
And Ephesians 4, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger”.