A New Perspective
Thanks to Pastor Ben, I’ve gained a new perspective to ministry in the church, and life in general. If you don’t mind reading on, you can do so after the jump
In the Bible, especially the New Testament, Jesus uses various stories or parables to illustrate principles. Some are simple to understand while others cause confusion over their interpretation. Last Friday, Pastor Ben taught us a very simple lesson from the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (or the Parable of the Generous Employer). It goes like this:
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3“About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.4He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5So they went.
“He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About 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?’
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.’
9“The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.12‘These men 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, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don’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.”
All along, I’d already formed a conception of this parable. Yes, the workers represent us, who each accept Jesus at different times and seasons in our lives (thus the different hours of hire). And the wage of one denarius remains constant because it represents the gift of salvation which is equally and freely given to anyone who accepts Jesus. All this I agreed on. But all along, my interpretation had a negative light: I imagined myself in the place of the worker hired in the first hour, who had to endure work through the heat of the day. And this is because I’ve been born into my religion; how much earlier can you get? But always, I’d look at the eleventh hour workers with a tinge of disapproval mixed with jealousy. I envied them the “opportunity” to carousel about the world without the “burden” of morals and constricting regulations. Having never lived life outside of religion, perhaps I thought the grass was really greener there.
But Pastor Ben offered a new perspective: Imagine a very good friend, a best friend of yours. And imagine he or she had an enterprise, a business that needed your help and input. Loving this friend as much as you do, of course you’d want to establish this enterprise with him or her from the very beginning, and toil together no matter how hard the going got, because it was the company that mattered, and wherever your friend was, that’s where you wanted to be. Now imagine that friend is Jesus, who has an enormous enterprise, an enormous work to be completed before He can come back. Why wouldn’t I want to work the earliest opportunity I could get?
And what hit me the most was when Pastor Ben said, there is one thing the eleventh-hour workers will never get to experience when we all get to heaven. As the first, second, third hour workers, we would reach heaven and meet the people who would come up to us and say, “Hey, you might not remember me, but you invited me to church/cell group/fellowship, and partly because of that, I got to know Jesus. Thanks.” or even “You showed me Jesus’ example and inspired me.” It’s the fruit of the labour that they would not get to experience. And I imagine they might feel it was such a pity they couldn’t know Jesus earlier, and help His work.
So it was really a blessing through teaching. And sometimes, it takes others to persuade us to take a new perspective on things.