The First Will Be Last

KEY VERSE: “The last shall be first; and the first, last.” —Matthew 20:16, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott


THE PARABLE OF our lesson is a difficult one for many to comprehend, and Jesus gave no explanation. It is designed to teach attitudes, more than to call attention to specific classes or rewards. What is our attitude concerning serving the Lord, and what is our attitude toward others who are also doing so?

The verses of our Selected Scripture, in which Jesus gave the parable of the laborers, are paraphrased as follows: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Then at the third, sixth, and ninth hours he did likewise, saying, Whatever is right, I will give you. About the eleventh hour he found others standing idle, and said, Why stand ye here all day idle? They answered, No man hath hired us. He then said to them, Go ye also into the vineyard.

‘So, when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last to the first. Then they that were hired at the eleventh hour received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. When they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house. He answered one of them and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; did not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that is thine and go thy way. I will give unto this last even as unto thee. So the last shall be first, and the first last’.

This parable shows how each member of the Lord’s consecrated church—heirs of the Messianic kingdom shortly to be established—is privileged to be a co-laborer with his Lord and Master, and with the Heavenly Father, in the vineyard work, assisting in every way in the harvesting of ‘much fruit’. Can it be that not many Christian people appreciate the privilege of building one another up in the “most holy faith”?—Jude 20

We read that at the close of the day those hired first murmured against their lord! It is difficult to suppose that any would murmur against the Lord, the Giver of all good! The ‘penny’, or reward, would seem to be the joys, blessings, honors, and privileges of God’s people in the present life, especially at the close of this age.

Those who murmur that they did not receive a sufficiency of honor, show a heart condition critical of the goodness of the Lord. Those selected as worthy for future service as members of the church in glory must learn now, to overcome such weaknesses of the flesh.

The general lesson is that God is so just, so generous, so bountiful in his dealings, that all those who appreciate matters from his standpoint will rejoice in the blessings which overflow upon others. In order to be worthy of participation in the kingdom, all who have the privilege of bearing the “burden” and “heat of the day” (Matt. 20:12) in the Lord’s service must be glad for the privilege.

Some who seem to be ‘first’ in their promptness to respond to the Lord’s call for laborers, may be among the ‘last’ to receive blessings of grace because of their attitude. (Matt. 20:16) This special test reveals their motives for engaging in the “vineyard” (vs. 1) work: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”—Heb. 4:1

Dawn Bible Students Association
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