(Just a note: I actually STARTED this last week and finished just now…because sometimes I have to be patient and wait for the rest of the words to come)
I am having an under the weather day so kids are getting a free day and though I am not feeling well, I decided to be somewhat productive by listening to some sermons…now I feel compelled to write for a bit. SO, I just got done listening to this sermon about the parable of the vineyard workers and it REALLY got me to thinking…all ‘bout our selfishness. Essentially, isn’t that what the story is about?
I know I have often quoted “the first shall be the last and the last shall be the first” to a group of kiddos who are all shouting to be first in line or first picked for an activity or to hold the flag or Bible at VBS opening. We OFTEN use this quote, but boy was I humbled today when I realized I was misusing it…most of us are, as a matter of fact. This pastor put it into a perspective I have never even thought of…he said (this is paraphrase) “what happens in a race when there are two runners and the first is last and the last is first” (Vermilya, 2016)? You guys, it took me a minute to figure out where he was going…THEY TIE (for the record, Noah got the answer in like 20 seconds…don’t judge)! They finish together, they get the SAME REWARD.
SO, what happens when you are given a promise and you work years toward your goal and another person comes in right before the end and they get the SAME REWARD!
For instance, let’s talk about salvation…I dedicated my life to Christ when I was fifteen, my (step-but-not-step) dad did not dedicate his life to Christ until MUCH later in his life (8 or 10 years ago, to be more precise). Does that mean when we get to heaven I get to go straight through the gates but dad has to wait a bit because I was there first? OR does that mean I have to wait (first shall be last) while dad goes through?
This pastor also focused on the fact that the Lord calls us all to Him to do His work (we were made for His glory, after all). Is there a time where we think of one kind of work more mundane than another? I remember about two years ago when my husband felt it in his heart to begin cleaning the church we attended at that time. So often people think of this kind of work as menial or less than what someone else is doing. In fact, I have heard it said with my own ears that so and so is too good to clean toilets, but this is never how Christ acted, is it? ALL work is done for the glory of he who made us (Colossians 3:17); after all, if Christ could take on the humiliating task of washing pooh and mud off his disciple’s feet, can’t we clean a toilet with gloves and a brush? My task of changing Myrah’s diapers (cloth at that) is no less rewarding to my family than my husband’s task of going to work each day, am I right?
The Word says that we all sin and fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23). It doesn’t say we all sin and SOME fall short. It doesn’t say those who don’t fall TOO short get VIP passes. It doesn’t even say those who live their lives being as good as they possible though they are sinners through and through will get a better salvation package. Nope. It says we ALL sin and we ALL fall short.
SO, while we ought to do good things for people (the least of these, remember…we aren’t worrying about position, right?) these good deeds are done out of reverence and obedience to our Lord, not to get a greater benefits package.
Isn’t this an amazing thing to hear? I am NO BETTER THAN YOU and vice versa. Repenting and having your heart changed by the Spirit and living for Christ; accepting the gift of salvation means ALL who accept that gift are given the reward. We should strive to do good things BECAUSE of this gift; because that is what we are supposed to do and for no other reason. We can never attain perfection, but we can strive to keep our eyes lifted to Him and our hearts living for Him and by doing this the world sees Him through us THAT is a BIG deal! THE WORLD! You know how big and bad that world out there is, right? There is so much anger and hate and evil in this world, wouldn’t it be great to live for the Lord and show people He is the good. That he is the Way and the Truth; the Bread, the Water, the Light and by His grace we can be saved.
This is exciting! This is wonderful. He is everything good. We are nothing good, but if we allow the Spirit to guide our hearts and direct our lives then we can do good things in the name of the Lord. We can all finish this race together if we just have Him. I want to finish with you, so friend, think about it! It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50, think hard about this “race” because friend, it doesn’t matter if you are first or last, if you follow Him then we go together.
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:13-15 NIV).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the word, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17 NIV).