Read Matthew 20:1-16, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. The problem statement being addressed here by Jesus is how do we value success? Is it by earthly measures?
How do we value success in our lives?
What does holding the wrong view of success do for us?
Having an earthly view of success pits is against one another. It causes us to yearn to possess. Usually, something that belongs to another. This is to covet. This is the 10th commandment (Exodus 20:17):
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Success, based on coveting something, puts you, striving to be above someone else!
The last workers to be hired in the parable were desperately waiting in the marketplace. At 5pm, the eleventh hour, it was still worth picking up at least one hour of paid work. These workers were the ones that were paid first (the first workers were paid last), and the landowner paid them a full day's pay. This was the same as those who had worked all day, (12 hours).
This doesn't show that our heavenly Father is unfair, it rather shows Him as generous. The world associates success based on merit, based on how hard you work, how long you work. Success is linked to deserving it. In the kingdom, in this upside-down kingdom, that Jesus invites us to, something else is valued. Success is valued differently. None of us deserve God's grace, yet He is generous to us all!
So, the first will be last and the last will be first. But what does last look like?
- Service of others
Service is to be motivated by God's grace. The grace that we don't deserve. Not only does He withhold mercy, but He also provides underserved favour over us. Jesus Christ, Himself is the perfect example of this. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. but to serve! (Mark 10:45). He did this through the cross. The complete work of Christ upon the cross.
Us in Community
When we come together as a community willing to serve one another in fellowship we're able to come together in Christ. Instead of competing, comparing, and promoting ourselves over one another, our pride and our self-centeredness have been stripped away. Replaced instead by love, forgiveness, grace, and service.
In the kingdom, those that don't strive to be first over others will be first. But those that do, will be last.
Let's continue on in Matthew and read Matthew 21:28-32. This is past the events of Palm Sunday when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt. And the overturning of the tables in the Temple. He is again teaching and tells us the parable of the two sons. The two sons show us that they have the same father and are both given the same command. Yet, we have two very different responses.
One shows us that some people prove better than they promise. While the other shows us that some promise better than they prove. One answers negatively and rudely, yet delivers, while the other provides a positive answer, which turns out to be a false response because it is not backed up with deeds.
Jesus then asks, which is better?
-The son that answers no, but does it
Here, the general idea is that the tax-collectors, prostitutes, even the lame, blind, crippled, and poor, those that sit outside of religion because they don't believe they are worthy or deserve grace are the son that says no but does it anyway. While the religious leaders, the priests, the elders who represent the nation of Israel (God's Chosen people), are represented by the other son. The one that positively responses, yet does not show repentance or a fear of God, even though they know religion. They do not know Jesus, they do not have a relationship with Him. Their actions, their deeds do not show a heart of obedience.
We as Christians must ensure our relationship with our generous God matches the deeds we perform. If they are out of alignment can we say that our relationship with God is true and right?
We are to have a heart that is built on the sure foundation of God's generosity towards us, which in turn, leads us to the service of others!
We must measure success as our service towards others.