The Last Shall Be First

Text: Matthew 20:1-16

Prop: A bag of candy.

Summary: The parable of the laborers illustrates that salvation is free to all. Our response should be one of humility, not resentment to God’s grace.

(Read aloud Matthew 20:16) So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

A story is told of a father that dropped off his son for Sunday School. He didn’t attend church but wanted his son to go. The father’s lack of concern rubbed off on his son. After church he picked him up and asked him what the preacher talked about. The boy replied, “I’m not real sure. A parable about cold people or something.” “What?” the puzzled father said. The boy explained, “Well, the preacher kept saying many are cold, a few are frozen.” (grin)

Somehow I think the boy missed the point of the parable of the laborers. Let’s take a look at it today. Jesus told many stories that helped explain what the kingdom of heaven was like. In this one he said there was a man that needed workers to come and take care of his vineyard, where grapes are grown. He went out early in the morning and hired some to work for a penny a day and they agreed. A few hours later, he saw some men in the marketplace without a job, so he told them to go work in his vineyard and he would pay them what was right. He did the same thing at noon and 3:00 p.m., and hired some late in the afternoon about 5:00 p.m. When sundown came, he called his workers in from the vineyard and told the supervisor to give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

When those came that had worked only an hour, he paid them a penny. But when he got to those that had worked all day long, they thought they should receive more, but he paid them a penny also. When they got paid, they murmured against the man. They resented that he had paid those that only worked an hour as much as they got paid after working all day in the heat. But he answered them and told them he was their friend, and they had agreed to work for a penny and they had been paid. He was entitled to do as he pleased with what was his to give, and they shouldn’t be sore with him about it.

Jesus was telling the people around him that salvation was available to everyone, but only a few were going to take him up on his offer. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he paid the price for salvation for anyone who believed on him. It is his to give to anyone who comes to him. Some children accept Jesus, and have the joy of working for God for many years. Some people put off accepting Jesus until late in life, even until they are about to die. They only get to serve the Lord a short time. God makes salvation available to us all. For those of us who accept the Lord early on, we should be humble and value that we were chosen to develop a wonderful relationship with our Lord. We should not be resentful of those who genuinely confess Christ as Savior late in life. Now do you think you understand what Jesus was saying? Let’s find out.

Thank you for coming today. I have a bag of candy here. I want you all to line up here in a single file line and I’ll give you all a piece. [Raise your hand and tell them to line up in front of you, and indicate which direction to form the line. After the children are in line, walk to the rear and pass out the candy beginning with the last child in line.) Remember what we learned? So the last shall be first, and the first last. 

©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

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