Matthew 20:1-7“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour 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 the sixth and ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour 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.’”
The landowner in the parable is God, and the people he hires are people like you and me who have been called to faith and service. It is true that the landowner in the parable was looking for workers. But if grace is undeserved love, love that comes as a gift, love that is free not forced, then we see grace at work from the very start. The landowner comes looking for someone to serve, for those who are not looking for him, and these first have the privilege of knowing him early. They are blessed to be chosen. They are favored that their relationship with this Master will stretch over a longer period of time. If you were unemployed, wouldn’t you consider it an honor to have an employer seek you out and an advantage to have him hire you soon?
If God has called you or me to faith and service at an early age, isn’t that all evidence of his grace? My parents brought me to baptism in the first weeks of my life. They brought me to Sunday School as soon as I was old enough to attend. Was I doing anything here? Wasn’t God’s grace finding me? I wasn’t always enthusiastic about going to church when I was three. I can still remember being dragged down the aisle loudly pleading not to be spanked because I had been naughty during the service. I was not always excited to tag along with my parents when they were volunteering for some church project.
My spiritual resume has only gotten worse since then. Have I given our Lord any reason to pick me? No. But I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t know Jesus is my Savior. There may have been times when I wondered if God loved me. But since I was a toddler I have known that he promises he does. I have known that, in spite of my sins, Jesus died on the cross to save me. I have even had the honor of serving him. My little voice told the Christmas story and sang his praises each Christmas Eve. That was hard work, all that memorization for a preschooler or grade-schooler. My little voice shared my faith with my playmates in my old neighborhood. That was all to my advantage–a blessing, a privilege to serve the Master who sought me and chose me early, early in my life.
Thank God, that grace does not end with me. He has brought in more workers at various hours of the day, at various stages in their lives.
There is a double grace here–grace to those being called to serve, and grace to those who serve already. Not all of us may have come to know Jesus so early. God calls people to faith from youth to middle age to old age. The Master keeps looking and keeps calling as long as there is still breath in our bodies. It has been said that, in the U.S., over eighty percent of those who come to faith do so before the age of 25. Maybe the Lord found some of you when you were older. There is still a place for you, and there is still a task for you, even if you have only days to live. Otherwise, he would not seek you as his servants.
And whether we are young or old, whether the Master called us early in life or late in life, we are all evidence of God’s grace to each other. The more the merrier. It is a blessing to have help. It is a comfort to know that I am not swinging my hoe in the vineyard all alone, but the Lord has surrounded us with people who do what they can with the strength God gives, and the talents he gives, to complete the tasks that he gives. Thank you, thank you, for people like you who stand alongside and work together no matter when you entered the field.