“‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
As we think about how and when people come to faith in Christ, let’s note a comment from teacher and author Lewis Smedes. He voiced the Lord’s own dismay over longtime Christians who looked down their noses at newcomers to faith: “Longtime Christians often resent it that some people are getting into the kingdom too easy and late.” New believers have sometimes confided to me that they have experienced such resentment.
Many of us relate to the workers in the parable who worked long but were paid the same as workers hired at the last minute. “Not fair!” we mutter. People who have some experience in vineyard work might agree. Hot sun, tough wood, and pesky wasps make pruning vines or picking grapes hard work. Longer hours ought to mean more pay. But this parable corrects our thinking as we apply it to the working of God, the owner of the world’s vineyard. It’s not the hours worked but the generosity of the vineyard’s owner that determines the pay.
Now, there should be no prejudice against latecomers to faith, no penalty. Come early or come late, the basis for our coming into the kingdom of God is grace. Grace is offered on the merits of the cross of Christ, and it is certified by Jesus’ resurrection. Coming first or last into the kingdom doesn’t matter.
But, of course, not coming at all does.
Lord, give me a heart of acceptance for new believers and for anyone who hasn’t known you as long as I have. And if I need to come to you for the first time, bring me now. Amen.
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