“Earlier this morning,” Stan began, “I was in a part of Matthew’s gospel that’s always been a bit confusing to me, but I think the Holy Spirit made it at least a little clearer for me.”
“What was that all about?” I said.
“It’s the story Jesus told about the workers in the vineyard, where, at the end of the day, they all got paid the same amount regardless of how long they had worked. Some worked all day, while others only worked for an hour, but they were all paid the same. Does that seem unfair to you?”
“Not sure about that,” I replied. “I just remember that the ones who worked all day were paid after all of the others had been paid and that they were disappointed that they weren’t paid more.”
“Yeah,” Stan said, “they expected more, but they got paid exactly the agreed-upon amount.” Continuing, he said, “The owner of the vineyard paid the others whatever he thought was right, and he thought it was right to pay everyone the same.”
“His vineyard, his money,” I replied. “He didn’t cheat anyone, but I do you wonder if he might have created a false expectation for the guys who worked all day.”
“This story is, I think,” Stan responded, “one that reflects God’s mercy in granting to each person life eternally with Him when it is time, regardless of how long before stepping into eternity the person accepted the free gift of God’s salvation in and through Christ.”
“I’m certainly glad there are no restrictions on that time line,” I replied. “I’ve got some family members who haven’t yet made the decision and I am praying they will before their time is up.”
“That’s right,” Stan said, “but there seems to me to be another part of the whole timing thing that’s real important for me not to forget.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“The part about the joy of waiting to step into eternity,” Stan replied, “the joy that comes from having more time here to work out the salvation that God has worked in through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.”
“Those who get their ticket for the train ride to glory right before the train arrives for them will have missed the joy of waiting for the train that comes to those who have spent a longer time in the ‘vineyard’.”
“Life eternally with God is the same for all who are headed in that direction,” Stan concluded. “There may be different rewards in heaven, but that’s another subject for another day. However, I think there’s clearly a difference here in the amount of joy that comes from being a disciple of Christ for a longer period of time. That’s the joy that comes to me while I wait for the train.”
But many who are first will be last; and the last first. Matthew 19:30.
And whatever is right I will give you. Matthew 20:4.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the free gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross, the gift that assures me of life eternally with you when the time comes. Thank you that it is available to all, whenever they choose to receive and embrace it. Thank you, too, for all of the time you grant me on this side of eternity during which I can draw ever closer to you and have the joy of knowing you more deeply before it is time for me to step into eternity. I confess that there are too many times when I choose not to draw closer to you and I choose not to enter into the joy you have for me on this side. Please forgive me. And please help me in following every step of your lead into as deep a relationship with you as is possible. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: When you think about entering into the joy of the Lord, what comes to mind? Is entering into that joy on this side of eternity too difficult with all that goes on in your life? Is there missed joy?
Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: firstname.lastname@example.org.