马太福音 20:1-16 “因为天国好像家主清早去雇人进他的葡萄园做工， 和工人讲定一天一钱银子，就打发他们进葡萄园去。 约在巳初出去，看见市上还有闲站的人， 就对他们说：‘你们也进葡萄园去，所当给的，我必给你们。’他们也进去了。 约在午正和申初又出去，也是这样行。 约在酉初出去，看见还有人站在那里，就问他们说：‘你们为什么整天在这里闲站呢？’ 他们说：‘因为没有人雇我们。’他说：‘你们也进葡萄园去。’ 到了晚上，园主对管事的说：‘叫工人都来，给他们工钱，从后来的起，到先来的为止。 约在酉初雇的人来了，各人得了一钱银子。 及至那先雇的来了，他们以为必要多得；谁知也是各得一钱。 他们得了，就埋怨家主说： ‘我们整天劳苦受热，那后来的只做了一小时，你竟叫他们和我们一样吗？’ 家主回答其中的一人说：‘朋友，我不亏负你，你与我讲定的不是一钱银子吗？ 拿你的走吧！我给那后来的和给你一样，这是我愿意的。 我的东西难道不可随我的意思用吗？因为我作好人，你就红了眼吗？’ 这样，那在后的，将要在前；在前的，将要在后了。（有古卷加：因为被召的人多，选上的人少。）”
Matthew 20: 1-6: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 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?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “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.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend.Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Here is another lesson Jesus gives us about his upside down kingdom. The meaning of the parable is plain. It doesn’t matter if you have been a Christian all your life or if you became a Christian on your deathbed, like the thief on the cross. The end result is the same. Everyone who believes in Jesus gets to go to heaven, because heaven is free. We don’t earn heaven by a lifetime of service. Nor do we deserve a better place in heaven. Grace is grace only if it is free and does not depend at all on our human efforts.
Having said that, I do not envy the thief on the cross even a little. I rejoice that he is in heaven, but I consider myself blessed beyond measure to have known Jesus since I was a child. What a joy to grow up in a Christian family. What a blessing to always dream and imagine what it will be like in heaven some day. How thrilling it’s been to serve my Savior, who died to set me free from the guilt and power of my sin. Everyone who believes in Jesus gets the same reward in heaven, but I consider myself blessed to have labored in his vineyard the whole day.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, fill my heart with the hope only grace gave give me and with the desire to serve you in your kingdom. Amen.