Matthew 20:15 “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
I was very interested to hear from my mother that even my seminary professor grandfather, the author of several highly respected books, had trouble with this story. As someone who had been dedicated to the work of the Lord from youth, he was in the position of the person who complained to the landowner in this story. He felt that if this story was taken at face value, people would put off committing themselves to the Lord until the last minute, choosing to “enjoy the pleasures of sin” as long as possible. Whereas it is true that some people are indeed that foolish, they are taking a terrible gamble, because no one knows when or how they will die. On top of that, such an attitude makes it highly unlikely that such a person indeed will repent on their deathbed. My grandfather’s work-around was to say that Jesus’ parable was about simply the first day of the harvest period, and everyone was expected to be at work the next morning, too. I think that misses the whole point of what Jesus was saying. The thief on the cross next to Jesus received eternal life just as surely as my grandfather did! That said, I’ve never run into anyone who became a Christian late in life who didn’t wish they had done so much sooner. My grandfather hadn’t “indulged” in the prevalent sins of his day, so he didn’t know how empty they really were for those who got caught in them. However, he had been tempted, and it is in the temptation phase that sin seems most attractive. It’s sad to me that Christians don’t seem to know what a good thing they’ve got. At times they are just as deceived in their values as any “public sinner.” If we stick to Jesus’ parable, those who went to work first thing in the morning were probably fed by the landowner, as well as being protected from wild animals and the like. On top of that, there is the satisfaction of a job well done. The pay at the end of the day wasn’t the only reward. We need to recognize the benefits God pours out on us, and not be deceived.
This certainly applies to me and my ministry. I have had the privilege of baptizing someone in their hospital bed two days before they died, and I have also had the privilege of baptizing an amazing five-year-old girl whose prayers, at that age, put many adult Christians to shame. (Incidentally, she is now a vibrant young adult, still fully committed to the Lord to whom she dedicated herself. I wish her family still lived here, instead of in Australia!) I also baptized a 76-year-old man who, in his testimony/confession of faith just before the baptism, said, “I feel like my life before this was in a fog, and now I am finally coming out into the light.” All of those people either have been or will be received equally before the throne of God, to rejoice in Him throughout eternity. I myself was baptized at age seven, after having proclaimed my love for Jesus for over two years prior to that. I wish I could say I’ve been faithful ever since, but I can say I regret my every deviation from the path, and am deeply grateful for God’s grace to me. I have total agreement with the song, The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows. Those who commit to Christ on their deathbed do receive eternal life, but they have missed a lifetime of benefits in the here and now. That needs to be my message to all who will receive it.
Father, thank You indeed for Your limitless blessings. I often encourage others to recognize Your grace to them. May I not fall short myself! I pray that Christ in me would be increasingly magnetic, to draw more and more into Your family as early as possible, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!