December 3 I Monday

Ezekiel 45-46

1 John 2

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” 

—Matthew 20:16


When a rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to “keep the commandments,” which the ruler said he had kept (Matthew 19:17-20). Jesus then told him to do one last thing: sell his possessions and follow Him. Unwilling to give up his wealth, the ruler went away sad and the disciples were astonished. They asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus replied, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter then asked, “We have left everything to follow You! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:25-27). It is in this context that Jesus told the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

Early one morning, a landowner hired some men to work in his vineyard for a denarius. Every few hours, at nine, twelve, three and five, he found other men standing around and hired them too. When the workday was over, the foreman gathered all the workers to pay their wages, starting with the workers hired at five o’clock. When they received a denarius, the workers hired first expected to receive more, but they were given the same amount. They grumbled against the landowner, complaining, “Those who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day” (Matthew 20:12). The landowner replied that he had paid them what they agreed on and that he had the right to do with his money as he chose. “Or are you envious because I am generous?” the landowner asked (Matthew 20:15).

In the first instance, this parable is a rebuke of Peter, who thought he and the other disciples were entitled to certain privileges because they lived sacrificially in contrast to the rich young ruler. It is true there will be reward, says Jesus, but from an earthly standpoint, the economics of the kingdom are radically different and might seem unfair. There is no “pecking order” in the kingdom. “The last will be first and the first will be last,” but we have totally missed the point if we are focused solely on our own reward.

People preoccupied with their own holiness and spirituality are really just preoccupied with themselves! It is never the length of our service, the profile of our ministry, the notoriety of our accomplishments or the recognition of our standing that has anything to do with kingdom rewards. Genuinely holy people are preoccupied with God, and it is the faithfulness of our obedience to Him and our dependence on Him that is the true measure of our lives.

Prayer: Father God, forgive me when I have been preoccupied with myself and my standing in the kingdom. May my life be characterized by obedience and dependence on You. Thank You, Lord.

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