13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
The morning workers complained that they were not treated fairly for receiving the same wages as those hired later in the day. The owner drew attention to the fact that they agreed to a contract. According to the contract, the owner was just in his dealings with the first workers.
Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
The owner sent the morning workers away because they agreed on a contract (legalism). He would not negotiate further.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?
The owner had the right to do what he wanted with his resources. Those who put their wages at the option of the owner received grace from his hand. They put trust in the owner’s sovereignty to do what was right.
The problem was not injustice on the owner’s part; he paid the first workers fairly. The issue was his grace in giving more to the workers hired later than to the original workers.
Or is your eye evil because I am good?’
The morning workers got exactly what they agreed upon. Were they stingy because the owner was gracious? Their true complaint was against the owner’s grace. The owner was fair to both groups.
So [this is point of 19:30] the last will be first, and the first last.
It is extremely important to take this verse in context. The context is about reward based on grace versus legalism. No one earns or deserves reward if God enables us to serve. The legalists complained about their pay because they did not receive pay according to grace but according to contract. They complained against the character of their owner because he dealt with other workers in grace.
Jesus drew a conclusion from the parable. People will be surprised at the end of the day how God rewards His servants. Those who deem themselves first will be last.
Jesus takes up the terms “last” and “first” from 19:30, which launched the parable of the workers in the vineyard.
For many are called, but few chosen.”
Those “called” here means invited (that is, invited to work in God’s kingdom). Many serve in the kingdom, some by legalism and others by grace. The “called” in this context are those who agree to work for God. “Chosen” in this context means those identified for reward based on grace. God chooses His reward for His workmen. Based on the principle of grace, few are chosen for reward.
Reward, at the end of the day, will be according to God’s gracious prerogative.
God gave out of His grace to those who started to work with one hour to go. It is possible that people we honor as leaders today may be last in reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those who live one year as a Christian may receive the same reward as the believer who serves the Lord for 50 years. God does not reward on the amount of time we give but according to our faithfulness to God’s grace. God will not reward on rank in Christianity or on length of service. Grace is God’s standard of reward, and grace extends to all alike.
Thank God that He deals with us in grace and not in legalism.