“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

- Matthew 20:16

In the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20, the landowner hired workers at different times of day, starting at the very earliest in the morning. He promised the workers the usual daily wage, to which they agreed. As the day went on, he came upon others who had nothing to do, and hired them as well later in the morning, and more in the afternoon, and more towards the end of day.

For those who worked earlier, they felt cheated that those who only laboured less received the same wage as those who had worked longer hours. Yet, the landowner reminded them that the agreement was the daily wage. He says to them, "Friend, I haven't been unfair! Didn't you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?" (Matthew 20:13-15).

This was the analogy that Jesus had used to teach us a lesson about the kingdom of heaven. Faith is not a competition. Salvation is the reward that is given equally by the grace of God. It is not a points system where those who do more good deeds, or have been a Christian longer, or go to church more, or know more about the bible would be rewarded greater. God's mercy is given to all those in need. And we should celebrate when others receive salvation for they are our brothers and sisters. There is no place for jealousy for we are all undeserving, saved only by the love of Christ.

Reflection: The lesson about the last becoming first and the first becoming last has appeared in other parts of the bible. Where do you recall this message being used? How do those passages relate to this parable?

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Thank you, Karyn Lau, for this thoughtful article on Christian Faith. Read all Christian Bible study articles on Calm Christian Music and listen to inspiring Christian songs, praise and worship songs, Christian piano music, Christian choirs, psalms, gospel music and Bible audiobooks. Learn how music can help you sleep better.