The following is an excerpt from “Do Not Grow Weary in Prayer and Fasting,” written faithfully each week for nearly 10 years by Jerry Hale, Spiritual Emphasis Committee Chair for the Growing and Building Campaign.
Last week we looked at encounters Jesus had with a rich young ruler and two of his closest associates as described in the book of Mark. His message of always putting God and others first and living lives of service bears repeating as we consider what our lives should look like in 2015. Further reading in the Gospels reveals that this idea of putting others first and being available to serve others is a consistent theme of Jesus’ ministry.
Matthew broadens this principle in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and the account of Jesus chastising the religious leaders in one of his last public speeches.
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. 2 He 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. 4 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 the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 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?’ 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. 10 So 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? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man 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.”
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5″Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
When you think about it, Jesus’ public ministry was pretty amazing for those 3 years 2,000 years ago! His daily walks throughout the land of Israel brought him in contact with thousands of people. With no mass media or modern communications he drew vast crowds wherever he went. Most people we see in the public eye these days have trouble with pride and always seem to be ready to exalt themselves. Yet Jesus ministered to thousands with the attitude that the first shall be last and that those who would be great among us must first of all be a servant to others.
Jesus was able to follow his own teaching because he knew who he was and he knew who his father was. We would do well to remember who we are (one of God’s chosen servants) and who our father is (we are truly sons and daughters of God himself). Knowing that, Jesus was able to resist the temptation to live a life capitalizing on his popularity and centered on his own interest. Knowing that, we should attempt to resist those same temptations and seek to truly live lives of humility, pleasing God and depending on his grace without regard to exalting ourselves in the eyes of others.