“‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’”
That verse is the ending to the parable: “Laborers in the Vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-16). Jesus uses this illustration to teach the disciples a lesson regarding His sovereignty.
In the parable, Jesus likens Himself to a master of a house, hiring workers throughout a workday. His point is to illustrate that His grace will be given as He sees fit, and that to question such is out of line. Just prior to telling the parable, Jesus makes this statement to the disciples:
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
This statement comes after the rich young ruler “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:22) He went away sorrowful because he now realized that he needed to first part with what he held above God (his riches), in order to be with God. Jesus then explained to His disciples that it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven:
“And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'”
Jesus immediately then segwayed into the parable of the “Laborers in the Vineyard”. He explained in the parable that all of the laborers are hired by a master of a house and are each paid the same wage, regardless of the fact that they are hired at various times of the day. The ones hired at the beginning of the day then complain when the same wages are distributed equally amongst the laborers, regardless of how long everyone worked. The master of the house then responds with the quote referenced at the beginning of this article, pointing out to the laborers that he has the power to offer a day’s wage to whom ever he wants, regardless of how long anyone works. After Jesus quotes the master of the house responding to the disgruntled laborers, He then repeats Himself to the disciples (just as He did prior to the parable) driving home His point:
“So the last will be first, and the first last.”
How tempting it is to always be evaluating what the other guy has been given. It’s what we all do:
“What are they being paid? How big was their slice of pizza? Why did they get a bigger scoop of ice cream?”
We are such babies.
God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). We need to grow up and bow the knee to Christ.
This reminds me of the end of John’s Gospel. Peter is told by Jesus what his future holds. Upon hearing it, Peter then refers to the Apostle John, and asks about his fate. Jesus’ answer to Peter is another reminder to us, as to our place in His order:
“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against Him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray You?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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