first and last.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard . . . And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.  Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.  And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,  saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’  But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’  So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:1-16 ESV)

Why does it often seem as though so many Christians have built “ministries” centered around disqualifying others? We want our reward, but THAT GUY? Surely not him.

What does this say about our faith?

It simply says this: “I am not confident of my status in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Do you see yourself as a child of God, loved and cared for, recipient of a Heavenly inheritance? Or do you see yourself as a sinner in the hands of an angry God, trying to keep His wrath off your head? Do you see His grace, mercy, and favor as freely poured out on you, or are you still trying to earn it?

Once you’ve answered those questions, now how do you see others? Do they still have something yet unaccomplished to earn God’s love? Is there something that makes you better than them?

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (Philippians 2:3b-‬7 NLT)

If the one man who ever lived with the right to consider himself “better” didn’t, then what right do we have?

When we see others as “less than” ourselves, we are wasting our inheritance in Heaven. When we marginalize the life or experience of another human being, we are telling our Creator that He made something “not as good.”

Within the Church, I have personally witnessed this in numerous areas: the treatment of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, along with numerous others. What we fail to recognize is that these things are a testimony about the condition of our own hearts rather than theirs. We have become the Pharisees, assured of our own holiness but failing to see God in others.

We want Heaven, but we don’t want to see “them” there.

Our identity as co-heirs of grace sets us apart. But we have failed to realize — in all our selfish, worldly thinking — that our inheritance is magnified the more we share it! We’re so afraid of “losing what’s ours” that we have minimized the glory of God to worldly, limited standards. The more we give away, the more we have left! The more it’s spread out, the thicker it gets! This is what the fishes and loaves were about: the Kingdom of Heaven works counter to the way the world operates. We are so focused on keeping what we “have,” that we draw back and attempt to keep it from others in fear.

“But I’ve worked harder!”

Have you? Have you really? You give me a list of everything you’ve done that qualifies you for grace, and I’ll give you the list of what God has done. We’ll compare and see which holds more Heavenly merit. 

When you begin to see yourself in your Kingdom identity and not justified by our selves, it changes the very fabric of our being. In our new creation, we are given new eyes through which to see ALL of God’s creation as worth loving, worth helping, worth redeeming, regardless of their position in this world. Sure, we can still choose to look through our old-self eyes to see them as the world does, but we have died to that self!

I challenge each of us to examine how we see others, how we minister to others, and how we love others, especially those whom the world has pushed to the side.

There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom.
*To all those who feel pushed down, uncared for, or abused, especially by the Church: I do not and cannot understand how you feel. Know that my heart is for you to know your worth in the eyes of God. You are loved and are worth loving. While I may never understand your pain, frustration, or doubt, I am here for you.