Matthew 20:8-10 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.”
Here’s a little science terminology for you: “Correlation is not proof of causation.” Do you know what that means? Just because two things correlate, just because they happen at the same time, or one right after the other, does not necessarily mean that one caused the other. Just because the car broke down when my wife was driving it does not prove that she caused the break down. Correlation is not causation.
It is similar with serving God and our final reward. Just because the landowner promised pay at the same time he hired the workers; just because they received their pay when the work was done, does not prove that their work was the cause of their pay. In fact, no matter how much each man worked, each received the same pay, to the surprise of those who were hired first.
The same thing is true of our service to God now and our heavenly reward. Our long work, our hard work is not the reason God gives us heaven. Everyone gets the same heaven, whether you have been a Christian for a short time or a long time, whether you have served God much or little. God’s gifts are based on grace, not merit. Sometimes that is hard for people to accept, but the Bible makes that point time after time from beginning to end.
So what do the wages in the parable teach us? God’s promises are certain. He does exactly what he says he will. God promised to send us a Savior. Then he did it, just like he said. God promises to build and preserve our faith through his word and sacraments. Your trust in Jesus is evidence that he has done it, just as he said. God has promised to welcome us home to heaven when our time on earth is done, not because we earned it, but because he has promised it. I don’t think he will do it. I don’t hope he will do it. The best research doesn’t suggest he will do it. I know he will, because his promises are certain.
I wouldn’t be so sure if his reward was based on my service. But God’s promises are certain, and that makes serving him not a desperate struggle to deserve a reward, but a matter of living in his grace.