Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: First (as in original) (01/10/05)
TITLE: The First will be Last
By Richard Krejcir
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Matthew Chapter 19 ends with the statement, many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (NIV). This statement primes this chapter. But what does it mean to be first? Many pastors, over the years, have used this passage of Matthew 20: 1-19 to teach about salvation and how we are rewarded. However, this has nothing to do with salvation because we do not work for it; salvation is a gift! This passage is not about rewards, either, because we do not all receive the same reward (Rev. 22:12-13). This passage is about eliminating selfishness and the “me first” mentality, both of which are integral parts of our sinful nature! Our selfishness deprives us of God’s power, and of opportunities and true rewards! This passage is about not allowing ourselves to be limited by our lack of foresight and vision. We are to trust in Christ, our motivation being to serve—not to demand what we think our reward or place is to be! Contracts may be necessary in business, but not in the Kingdom of God. His rule is about trust and grace; the world’s is about earning and manipulating. Under which would you rather live?
The last will be first. What we think we deserve may not correspond to what we get, as we will be given much more with faith and much less with a contemptuous attitude. What we think is of worth and importance usually is not. We seek wealth and power; Jesus seeks reconcilement and relationship. This parable also portrays God as sovereign, gracious, and concerned with humanity. It shows the contrast between the people society throws away as being first, and what the world considers first as really being last because their true colors come out as they complain and blame. Nobody likes to work hard and see someone who does not do so get a reward. But, grace is not about rewarding those who are lazy or foolish, it is about God’s control, and His vision sees all; ours does not. We are not to keep our focus on what others are doing or the rewards they seem to get. Rather, we are to focus upon our Lord and what He is seeking to do within us so we can give it to those around us. Let Him deal with you fairly, that is, what He thinks is fair—not what we think! Why? Because submitting to God to be last, as He modeled, exalts us in ways we cannot fathom, as God is the One who brings us to be first. God is the One who vindicates us! Salvation has more to do with our worship of Christ and less about our rewards!
So the question arises: Is God fair? This question comes up in our frustrations and setbacks, but the answer is always, yes. He sees and knows all, and we have so little faith and knowledge. We need to seek His Grace as our motivation, not what we see in others or what we think being rewarded is all about. Be a person who prays prayers that really and truly seek the Lord! Prayers in the New Testament are never about selfishness, never point to self; they are always teaching us to point to God and how we can advocate His glory. Do your prayers point to Him? Do not give into your own ways; give in to His! This starts with the right prayers of how I can serve, how I can be used, what I have to learn, not just what I can do or what I need! God wants to give to you! All too often, we are so busy with what we think we need that we do not listen or take advantage of His treasures and opportunities. Whatever fears or graces you experience, understand that you are built and designed for relationships. You need to understand your role to others around you and their role to you! Life may seem to shortchange you at times, but our Lord never shortchanges you unless you want Him to!
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