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 20:10-16 ESV
We see one man called to repentance and faith in the beginning of his days, like Timothy, and laboring in the Lord’s vineyard for forty or fifty years. We see another man called “at the eleventh hour,” like the thief on the cross, and plucked like a brand out of the fire–one day a hard impenitent sinner, and the next day in paradise. And yet the whole tenor of the Gospel leads us to believe that both these men are equally forgiven before God. Both are equally washed in Christ’s blood, and clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Both are equally justified, both accepted, and both will be found at Christ’s right hand in the last day.
There can be no doubt that this doctrine sounds strange to the ignorant and inexperienced Christian. It confounds the pride of human nature. It leaves the self-righteous no room to boast. It is a leveling, humbling doctrine, and gives occasion to many a murmur. But it is impossible to reject it, unless we reject the whole Bible. True faith in Christ, though it be but a day old, justifies a man before God as completely as the faith of him who has followed Christ for fifty years. The righteousness in which Timothy will stand at the day of judgment, is the same as that of the penitent thief. Both will be saved by grace alone. Both will owe all to Christ. We may not like this. But it is the doctrine of this parable, and not of this parable only, but of the whole New Testament. Happy is he who can receive the doctrine with humility! Well says Bishop Hall, “If some have cause to magnify God’s bounty, none have cause to complain.”