It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. Ephesians 2:8
“The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16), said Jesus at the close of His parable of laborers in a vineyard. He said this to correct a misconception about the kingdom of heaven. Many Israelites expected God to reward them for their good deeds according to divine and human laws. Even the disciples were merit-conscious. Peter asked Jesus what their reward would be for having sacrificed more than others – for having “left everything to follow You!” (Matthew 19:27).
In the parable of vineyard workers, two things stand out: (1) The men hired last were paid first, and (2) all workers, even those who had labored for only one hour, received the same pay: a denarius, the usual day’s wages. This is not the usual way of doing things in employer-employee relations.
Jesus did not intend to prescribe work schedules and wage scales for everyday life. He Himself subscribed to the principle that “the worker deserves his wages’ (Luke 10:7). What He had in mind here was to underscore the terms God has ordained in the kingdom of grace. God is gracious, and when Jesus has the vineyard owner say “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (Matthew 20:15), He is asserting God’s right to be gracious.
Long-term Christians and veterans of the cross – those who have labored long for their Lord – and latecomers like the penitent thief on the cross are saved by grace alone. The former do not begrudge God’s generosity to last-minute converts, for they too are saved by grace. And the latecomers? They join the hymn writer in saying: “Alas! That I so late have known Thee.”
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord God, for being gracious to Me and sending Your Son to be my Savior. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)