"Whooooooo are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?"—Song by The Who (Who else would it be by?!)
Jesus loved to tell stories. His parables are great because you'll just be reading along in the story, and you think you understand what He's getting at, when all of a sudden, "Smack." He hits you in the side of the head. Matthew 20 is one of these stories—and the "smack" has to do with who you are in the story.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard." (Matthew 20:1)
The landowner agreed to pay the workers one denarius. Then, every three hours, he went out and hired more workers until it was just about quitting time.
"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?' 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 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.'" (20:6-8)
This is where the "smack" comes in. The landowner pays the ones who have only worked a few minutes the same amount he pays the guys who have worked a whole day! "Unfair!" you are probably saying. Yes, it is, but it upsets you only because you probably identify yourself with the wrong person in the story.
If you've been working for Christ, diligently doing His work for a long time, you will automatically identify with the guys who worked all day, complaining (probably to yourself) about why the last guys get the same as you. But that's not who you are in the passage. This passage is about the last person hired. Who are you? "Smack!" In this story, you are the last person hired, the one who gets far, far more than he has earned. And friends, this is the best news you could ever hear.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (20:16)
Gracious Lord, humble me, in the light of Your grace. Deep in my heart give me a keen awareness that every blessing that I have is a free gift from You. When I compare myself with others, convict me that I deserve nothing, and yet, have so richly received everything from You. Amen.
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