In Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Matthew we find Peter comparing himself to the rich, young ruler. Peter feels like he has given up much for Christ and wants to know what is in it for him. While Jesus tells the disciples that there is ample reward for those who give up this world for him, he then gives the parable of the laborers to warn us of comparing ourselves to others.
In the case of the laborers who were hired first, they assume that they should get more for working longer in the kingdom of God. And they and Peter make a couple of mistakes. Getting the same reward reminds us that there is no real difference between saints. All are unworthy sinners and none deserve anything but God’s wrath so we are all saved by grace and will all see Jesus. Perhaps Peter’s greatest mistake is to compare himself to someone else which seems to be what the “first” are doing in the parable. He looks on the outward and assumes he has done more and giving up more than this man but Jesus says, “Not so fast, God looks on the heart”. Anyway, what did he really give up, some old boats, some holey nets? Even though he gives up some time with his wife and earthly stability and eventually his very life, what is all that compared to an eternity in Hell which is what he has been saved from. In reality he has given up very little while this young ruler was being asked to give up much more. Comparing ourselves to someone else will never end well. We just don’t have enough information. None of us are really asked to give up much compared to Heaven.
I got to thinking about how we so often compare ourselves to others. It usually goes something like this: “Lord, why is it that so and so has a better job, or is healthier or has fewer problems than I do?” But I can’t say that I have ever heard anyone, including myself, complain to the Lord that so and so doesn’t have all the blessings we have! “Lord, why is it that I seem to have an easier time than they do, why is it that I don’t get as sick as often as that person, why is it that my marriage doesn’t seem to suffer like theirs, etc.” Clearly we are a selfish people that only compare ourselves to others to complain against God’s good providence most of the time.
Secondly, I think the heart of the matter is that the first group didn’t see the labor as part of the reward. If the reward to you is after death and you don’t see and live in the privilege of knowing Christ now you are missing out on a big part of the reason the Lord saved you. He doesn’t save people just to get them to heaven but to be examples of his grace and love even before this world. A bitter, mean, miserable Christian is a contradiction of our profession. You are telling everyone that knowing God isn’t life (even though that is what is says in Joh 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.) you are telling us that the only worthwhile reward for serving the Lord comes later, not now. And you are saying that the things of this life are so important that knowing the Lord and having his Spirit have no ability to help us now and I just don’t think that is why the Lord saves us. My experience has been just the opposite and I think this parable reminds us of this. They should have been rejoicing that they had longer to work for their Lord!
I want to live and die content in Christ before this world and it is only by the grace of God that we will. Finally, at the end of the day our work has nothing to do with our final reward, all are paid alike and more than they deserve. The question is will you be joyful as you work? Will you serve out of a thankful heart? If so you will be great in the kingdom. If the opportunity to serve the Lord even in more difficultly than others isn’t enough for you, you will be least in the kingdom.