“I can’t believe he chose me!? I mean what did I have to offer I’ve been blind since birth! I knew I could work if someone gave me a chance, but no one would, always passing me over for more able body workers. But this landowner, he must have been crazy, he hired me, even late in the day with only an hour left to work and promised to pay me a fair wage! I can’t believe it.
But it wasn’t only me. There was that woman who had a hard time speaking clearly and her hands quavered, there was a child who needed help walking and standing (where I live, children as well need work to be able to eat and live) and that older man who had a hard time breathing.
And the work, that was the most surprising of all! The work the master chose for each one of us was suited to our abilities and disabilities. He worked with what we had to offer. But he was so kind that we found ourselves doing more than we ever thought we could. I don’t think the landowner is from around here, he can’t be, no one treats us with such … the only word I can think of that describes it… with such mercy. I don’t know; I’m just glad I’ve been given a place where I can work and belong.
I’m sorry, I have to go, He’s calling and there’s work for me to do.”
This comes from the point of view of a last hour worker in the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 that Jesus taught about the workers in the field all receiving the same wage without regard to how long they worked, including those who were “passed by” for the more desirable workers, those called in the last hour.
This parable often has been interpreted differently, as a comparison between those who have had saving faith their whole lives to maybe ones that received saving faith late in life or even upon their death beds. Saying, rightly so, that no matter when someone came to saving faith, the glory of God in Heaven that they receive is still the same. When you think about it, it is a testament of how complete God’s grace is that covers over all of our sins and treats us all the same, none greater—none least.
But this interpretation can also inspire a, how do we want to call it, a laissez-faire type of attitude, a “what does it matter how I live now? I can always make a deathbed confession and receive the same heaven as everyone else.” Or, a “I’m too busy to take my faith-life seriously now, when I’m older, when I have more time, then I will, ‘cause it doesn’t really matter it’s all the same heaven anyways.”
Sure, if “heaven” is the end goal and we’re just somehow, someday trying to escape this world and get there, but all the while getting to live how I want to now without much fear of eternal consequences, if that is what being a Christian is all about, then it makes sense. I get to eat my cake and have it too!
But that’s not the Christian faith and the Christian hope does not end at heaven. Heaven rather than being the end of the journey for a human life found in faith is a temporary resting place of restoration and renewal in the light of God and presence of Jesus Christ. A time of complete healing and joy, being with the Lord to be sure. But also a time of waiting, waiting for the day, when both Heaven and Earth will pass away and all of creation will be made new and eternally sustained by God. When death, sin and decay will no longer reign but only God, a world without end, Amen.
It is that future hope of God making all things new that has broken into our world now in Jesus. From His death upon the cross that brought light into the darkness to the resurrection on Easter morning that brought victory over death. In Jesus, God is working in our world right now, giving hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. God is working in the world right now and is bringing all of creation to that time of complete renewal and healing
This work, all done through His son Jesus, is also being accomplished through His good work in you, His people who are the hands and feet of Christ.
Which means that goal of the Christian life is not Heaven tomorrow but being with God today. The life we live today in faith, is not simply marking time till heaven, or twiddling our thumbs wondering what to do next, nor is it a time to devote our lives to the pursuit of money, or earthly power, or status, or fleeting beauty, or leisure, but instead by the grace of God learning to be now what we will fully be eternally, God’s new creation in Jesus.
When we understand that the Christian life is learning to be God’s people now just as we will be eternally, then this parable is not about heaven, but a calling for every Christian to live and work the Christian life today. When we say every Christian, the Bible means every Christian, at whatever stage of your life; no matter your earthly circumstances, no matter how late in the season of your life, even those that would be passed over as unfit by human standards. God has a place and a calling for you in his good work of salvation today.
You will be a person of constant worship in God’s presence eternally,
be in faith a Christian of worship today.
You will be a person of prayer speaking to God directly eternally,
be in faith a Christian of constant prayer today.
You will be a person of who serves the Lord day and night in His temple,
be in faith a Christian of constant service today.
You will be a person who is fully known and fully loved in Christ eternally,
be in faith a Christian who grows in Christian love and maturity today.
You will be a person who glows from the light of Christ eternally,
be in faith a Christian who is a light pointing to Jesus today.
All are equal at the foot of the cross and all of us are called to be Christians today on Earth just as it is in Heaven and will be with God eternally. Amen.