“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
God judges us for our deeds. The sinner will be judged for his or her evil deeds. The list of their crimes will be read in the High Court of Heaven before they are sentenced to hell (Rev.20:12). The saint will be judged for his or her righteous works in view of receiving their reward in heaven (1 Cor.3:11-15). God will not only judge us as to what we do, but for why we do it. Motives matter to God. The right thing done for the wrong reason is still wrong. Jesus warned that to give, pray, or fast to impress people was to be rewarded only with human approval (Matt.6:1-18), and to miss heaven’s applause. We might suppose that such religious acts would be see by God as, “gold, silver, precious stones,” yet, because the motive is self-centered and not God-honoring, temporal in its end and not eternal, then such will prove to be, “wood, hay, straw,” to go up in smoke in the fire of Christ’s scrutiny. Motives matter.
That is the thrust of the parable Jesus presents in Matthew 20:1-16. It is sandwiched between this point: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first. …” (19:30) and “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (20:16) The context of the teaching is in response to Christ’s call to sacrificial service (19:23-29). Peter has popped off—as he was prone to do—“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” (19:27). Jesus tells that their labor and loss for His sake will be rewarded (19:18-29), but that an additional test beyond the manner of service is the motive of service.
- GOD SEEKS SERVANTS (v.1). God is God. Therefore, he needs no one or nothing other than Himself. He is self-sufficient and self-existing. In His amazing grace and infinite knowledge, He has chosen, however, to employ frail creatures of flesh to partner with Him in His work. Many are called, but few chosen—have you responded to His call?
- SOME WORK AS AN OBLIGATION (v.2). These were contract laborers. They were motivated by what they would receive—and that alone. There is no hint of grace or love, just “punching the clock,” in order to collect the pay. If we are not careful, duty becomes drudgery—and God knows our motive. As concerning His service is it, “I’ve got to,” or “I get to”?
- OTHERS WOULD WORK IF ASKED (v.3-6). Some are idle because they are indolent. These are idle because they were yet to be invited. They respond eagerly to the offer. How many people do we have in church life, ready to serve, if only asked?
- THERE IS A WORK OF FAITH (v.4-7). No contract was negotiated—they simply trusted the Landowner to do the right thing. Faith is crucial not only in salvation, but in service. Read Hebrews 11 concerning the works accomplished by faith. Supernatural possibilities exist when reliance on God is manifest, and will be rewarded (Heb.11:6).
- GOD DISPENSES REWARDS ACCORDING TO HIS SOVEREIGNTY (v.8-16). We will have no ground of complaint at the Judgment Seat. We will know He does right. Let us not complain now! Just do the right thing with the right motive and God will reward someday.
Dennis Thurman has pastored churches in Western North Carolina for 36 years. Currently, he is Senior Pastor of Pole Creek Baptist Church where he has served for almost 20 years. Married to Marilyn for 40 years, they have 5 children and 11 grandchildren.
This article was originally posted on Dennis’ blog, Mountain Top Musings