Message of the Day: An Amazing Expression of God’s Grace and Generosity
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Key Verse: Matthew 20:16, NKJV
“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
Jesus’ purpose in telling this parable, which only occurs in Matthew’s gospel, was to illustrate what he had just said concerning God’s unexpected gift to those who at present appear to be disadvantaged (Matthew 19:30). He was not setting out rules for wages and employment, but giving an illustration of God’s grace. The sovereign God takes pity on a needy world, and generously gives his salvation to all who accept it.
God’s sovereign graciousness and generosity extended to the “latecomers” (the poor and the outcasts of society) into God’s kingdom. It is addressed to the grumblers (v.11) who just cannot handle this amazing expression of God’s grace. They almost certainly represent the religious leaders who opposed Jesus.
At the beginning of the day, a landowner hired people to work in his vineyard for an agreed wage (Matthew 20:1-2). At several stages through the day day he hired additional workers (those who were hired early in the morning, the third hour [9:00 A.M.], sixth hour [noon], ninth hour [3:00PM], and eleventh hour [5:00 P.M.]), then at the end of the day paid them their wages. When those who had worked all day found that the landowner paid the same amount to the late-comers as he paid to them, they complained. The landowner reminded them that he had paid them the amount they had agreed to, and if he paid others the same amount, that was his concern. The discontent arose not because of any injustice in the landowner, but because of jealousy in the all-day workers.
The last will be First, and the First Last
They are the underserving who received mercy, to the dismay of those who consider themselves worthy and therefore privileged.
The blessings of the kingdom are the same for all who enter, whether Jews who had worshipped God for centuries, or Gentiles who had just been saved from heathenism; whether scribes who had studied God’s law for many years, or tax collectors who had just repented; whether those who had served God for a lifetime, or those converted in old age. But whereas the most unlikely people entered the kingdom, those for whom it had been prepared were excluded.
Many are Called but Few are Chosen
In Greek, to be “called” is to be invited to a banquet (Matthew. 22:14) or to be appointed. Applied to this parable it means those who were called (hired) to work on the vineyard. There are 5 batches of workers as mentioned above. “Chosen” is elect (Gk., eklektos), choice or select. Many are invited to be part of God’s kingdom but only few are chosen by him. This does not mean that God chooses arbitrarily. The invitation must be accepted, followed by appropriate conduct. Proper behavior is evidence of being chosen.
Thus, all of us receive the same amount of grace and blessings regardless of the span of time we spent serving God and his community. We should get rid of the sense of being ‘privileged.’ The gospel is now preached throughout the world and we are among those who responded to the “call.” We are the chosen ones. As such, proper behavior and appropriate conduct as expected to emanate from us. Avoid complaining for it is unbecoming of those who were chosen to be part of God’s kingdom.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. A Guided Tour. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2004.
MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.
Olive Tree Bible Software, 1998-2020.
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.
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