All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.
I believe the parable of the laborers in the vineyard applies not only to the issue of salvation but also to rewards in heaven. You might say, “Well, the laborers in the story all got paid the same amount. So if anything, this parable seems to be teaching that everybody, regardless of how hard or how long they have worked for Christ, is going to receive the same reward.”
But this whole discourse actually begins with the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16. This guy had all the money, power, and prestige he could want, and he asked Jesus, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus told him, basically, “Keep all the law.” The man said that was easy! He had been doing that since he was a youth. So Jesus told him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor” (v. 21). The Bible says he turned away sad because he was unwilling to give up his riches. In other words, he was not nearly as holy as he thought he was. He needed grace like the rest of us.
The disciples were watching all this take place, so in verse 27, Peter said, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (vv. 29-30). There is a relationship between how much you give up in this life and the kind of rewards you receive in heaven. Many who are first in this life, like the rich young ruler, are going to be last in the kingdom of heaven. And those who are last are going to be first in the kingdom of heaven.
I want you to notice a few principles about rewards in this passage. First of all, rewards in heaven are based on God’s sovereignty. I do not think Jesus was saying that God is capricious or arbitrary, but this passage reminds us that God is free to reward whomever He chooses.
Second, rewards are based on our motives. Sometimes what we do is not nearly as important as why we do it. There are a lot of reasons that people can work for God. They might do it as penance for something in their past or to earn a reputation from other people. But verse 29 says there is only one sound reason for sacrificing for Christ, and that is to glorify God rather than ourselves. There is only one reason to serve Christ, and that is for Christ’s glory.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Lesson In Workman’s Compensation” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org