As I consider Matthew 20, I find that the laborers complained because they worked all day and received a certain wage. Then those who worked just part of the day received the same amount as the ones who gave it their all throughout the day. They grumbled because “they thought they would receive more” (v. 10). I can see them digging, wiping the sweat from their eyes, muscles aching with pain, saying to themselves or to those who worked the same amount of time: “I deserve a great deal more money today then those who worked just a few hours.” Can you see their faces when each worker received the same pay?
I have been a Christian now for twenty-eight years, and I can attest to the fact that I and others act the same way as these laborers. Why? Because we forget to do all things to the glory of God, we forget to emulate Christ who said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many” (v. 28). He gave us His all, even His life. He was last, but God the Father made Him the first.
“The last will be first and the first will be last” (v. 16). Jesus said that many times, to be sure. Jesus came to do the Father’s will, and we are to do the same without grumbling and complaining. How do we do that? By being in the Word. The Word of God is a transforming agent in our lives. If we have a desire to be first in notoriety, we will have our reward in full here, not in heaven. We may grumble because of hardships we might be enduring. But this only shows that our thinking is askew. We think we don’t deserve difficulties. Yet if we don’t put Jesus first, we will be bitter, not better, when the bumps in the road come our way.
We are to do all things unto the Lord whether or not we get recognition, and the joy of the Lord is surely felt when we serve others. But how do we endure hardships and discipline from the Lord? We understand that it is for our good (James 1:2–4). God is transforming us into the image of Christ. We therefore glorify God by being last, even though the world will not understand this, because God’s ways are contrary to the ways of the world.
Greg Barolet was formerly media resource specialist for Ligonier Ministries.