Two weeks ago I preached on Jesus’ parable of Laborers in the Vineyard, which Jesus introduces with the statement, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” and concludes by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first last. ‘ (Matthew 19:30 & 20:16) The point being that how people evaluate you now and how God evaluates your life in the end could be very different.
Very Different Kingdom
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 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?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“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.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘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.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
What About The “GOAT”?
You might have four Super Bowl rings on one hand and four World Series rings on another and be called the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) on earth and end up a goat of an entirely different sort on Judgment Day. (Matthew 25:32) And some who are “nobodies” in the eyes of the world may be Hall of Famers in heaven. God’s criteria for judging greatness includes things like a servant’s heart and how much you suffer for Christ’s sake. (Luke 22:26, Matthew 5:11-12)
Chances are there will be many surprises, even for us. Meanwhile, do your best to please God and don’t put much stock in the opinions of people, including your own. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)