Some people resist the spiritual tug of war all their lives. Some succumb, some hold out strong. Some come very late to the table. The Bible says some very clear things about this. While it might seem unfair, it is ultimately hopeful for all of us. ♦
Have you ever spoken at length to someone who simply resists God? I mean a friendly conversation with a rational person who consciously decides to deny a faith in God, or a belief in Jesus, or outright rejects all religions as an unnecessary crutch.
They may reject the validity of the Bible, possess a disbelief in miracles, uphold the apparent proof of science or may simply have a misunderstanding of what Christianity is really about.
They may even live an entire lifetime on the other side of faith. And not be “bad” people. They just can’t, or won’t, give in.
For them, the message of God falls on deaf ears. Indeed, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Fortunately, for people like my father, the will of God is that none of these should perish (Matthew 18:14).
Parable of the Workers
In this context of equity and hope for the lost, Jesus tells a fascinating story in the gospel of Matthew (chapter 20) in response to Peter’s question about the reward awaiting the devoted followers of Jesus like himself: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27).
In response, Jesus tells him the truth about the kingdom of heaven:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning (about 6am) to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius (a Roman soldier’s pay) for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The lesson is clear: it may not seem fair, but the Master (the landowner) can do what he pleases. Likewise with God. We are subjects and benefactors of His mercy and love. Even those who come late to the game.
My Late Father
My father died at age 63. After a routine series of tests, he was told he had pancreatic cancer and would survive for 6 months to 2 years. He lasted 6 months. On the day of his diagnosis, my father called me and told me that “this day was the worst day and the best day of his life.” Upon questioning, he told me that after he received the terrible medical news, he went home and told my sister and mother that he “was ready.” At that point he said he was “ready to surrender his life and heart to Jesus.”
Which he did.
In those final 6 months we witnessed a changed man. He thrived in reading the Bible. He was baptized and loved to sing Christians songs. This was not the father I grew up with. While a great guy, my father had resisted anything having to do with faith, church, Christianity all of his life. He merely had no interest or need for it, he’d say. He now was as happy and more at peace than I had ever seen him.
Two months before he died, I took him out to breakfast and he asked me “Mike, why didn’t I do this sooner?” I told him I didn’t know. He said he recalled me becoming a Christian at age 14, then my sisters, then brother, then my Mom. He just could not get over his own skeptical hurdles of belief and surrender to a higher authority. He said it just didn’t make sense to him. He said, “You know, I used to think that if I became a Christian, then I couldn’t have a beer or couldn’t cuss!”
That says much about the teachings, doctrines, and misunderstandings around many of our Christian churches today.
In any event, my father was like those laborers who got a full share of wages despite coming into the fold at such a late date. His loss and his gain. Loss for missing a lifetime of rich benefits; gain for experiencing richness in eternity.
While it’s never too late, what are you waiting for?
“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20:16