Read Matthew 19:16-20:16
We not only heard but can also understand that objection from the hired hand who had worked all day in the scorching heat. How dare his employer pay him as the one who had labored so hard under adverse conditions the same wage as the person who had only worked the last hour of the day! It just does not make sense. It goes against all kinds of work/employment principles that we have learned over the years.
But, according to Jesus, this kind of equal compensation is a kingdom principle!
Let’s go back and trace the developments that led to the telling of this parable. It all started with a rich man’s reluctance to sell all, give away the proceeds, and follow Christ. Being wealthy, this man was unwilling to give to Christ the kind of priority He demands.
Shortly thereafter, Peter spoke of their experiences as Christ followers. They had left everything to follow. Perhaps he could still remember the day when he and James and John had left their families and fishing nets behind in favor of following Jesus. Maybe he was also thinking of Matthew who turned his back on a lucrative (albeit dishonest) tax collecting career to come in the wake of Christ. Did his mind sometimes turn to their former compensation compared with their current pittance? Did he sometimes think about the types of sacrifices they had made? Apparently so, because he wanted assurance that all those past sacrifices would be recognized through future reward.
Indeed, that assurance came. They would be gloriously rewarded! In fact, all who give Christ priority over home and family will receive heaven and a hundredfold return.
But then comes the rub. Then comes the part that seems unfair and inequitable. Then comes that story that bursts the bubble of those tempted to throw out their chests in pride over the level of their sacrifice. Everyone who follows . . . whether for an hour or for a lifetime . . . all who serve . . . whether in the heat and peril of a developing country or in the cushiness of the wealthiest neighborhood . . . all who surrender . . . whether as a child like Timothy or with their dying breath like the thief on the cross . . . every Jesus follower receives heaven by grace alone.