Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Being First In Line

Matthew 20:16

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

profileI have a vague memory of 1st grade (we didn’t have nursery school or kindergarten when I was young so this was my first public school experience). Mrs. Miller was my teacher I think – and I believe she had red hair (that means nothing but it is a memory). We would line up for just about everything. We would line up for lunch. We would line up for going out to play. We would line up for the bus. We would line up to go to the library. We would line up to go to P.E. You name it and we probably lined up for it.

I was a tad competitive back in the day (stop laughing – I was really bad back in the day so if you think I am competitive now – you didn’t know me when I was truly competitive). A friend and I would almost always end up first or second in line it seemed. We would hustle out of our seats (his seat was closer to the door if I remember) and jump into line whenever the teacher said to line up at the door because we were headed somewhere in the school.

One time she pulled a fast one on us. I saw it as unfair. I believed I had been wronged. The teacher told the first four people in line – which included me – to go to the back of the line and the last four people in line to come to the front of the line. I can’t remember where we were headed – it didn’t matter – I was in the front of the line through my hustle and athletic ability and she made me go to the back of the line. I was not a happy camper. I deserved better! I had earned my place in line!

I remember her saying something about the first shall be last and the last shall be first – but I thought she was just upset because my friend knocked over a chair trying to get in line first. I had no idea about the Biblical meaning of the last will be first, and the first will be last.

For some reason I thought I was entitled to being first because I was quick and fast. If I got in line first – I should be the first to get my lunch or go outside or get to the library. I mean – what did being first mean if not to get first shot at whatever we were doing. I could so understand the workers in the field who were hired first. If I had been them – I would have thought I was due more pay when those hired last received a full day’s wage – for only a few hours of work. Fair is fair after all. Let’s read today’s passage in partial context.

Matthew 20:1–16 – 1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning 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.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’  7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’  8 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 five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’  13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As a person who came to the saving knowledge of Christ’s love at an early age – I so understand that God – through God’s love and grace – will give the person who has an 11th hour conversion the same free gift He will give me – a place in His presence for eternity (heaven). My joy at being saved at an early age is that I didn’t have to live my whole life not knowing Jesus. Like those hired early – they knew they were going to be able to provide for their families from the break of day while others had to wait out the day not knowing. My extra pay is the knowledge that by grace I have been saved for some 47 years now while I know folks my age who still do not know the saving knowledge of Christ.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way.


April 7, 2014 - Posted by | Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Lenten Thought, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , ,


  1. Good stuff Ray……… I had to chuckle visualizing you knocking chairs over to get to the front of the line. 🙂


    Comment by Greg Sweitzer | April 7, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Greg and thanks for reading…


      Comment by raymcdonald | April 7, 2014 | Reply

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