Jesus taught some more about how the last come first, and the first come last. So He told His disciples this story. “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who owned a vineyard. He went out early in the morning to hire men to work. They agreed to the usual wage for a day’s work. A few hours later, the owner saw some more men standing around with nothing to do. They, too, agreed to what the owner promised to pay. They went to work in the vineyard.
“The owner went out again at noon and in the afternoon, looking for more workers. They, too, were sent into the vineyard. As the end of the working day drew near, the land owner found a last group. ‘Why haven’t you done anything useful today?’
“They answered, ‘Because no one has given us a job.’
“The owner said, ‘You can work for me. Go into my vineyard and help with the harvest.’
“An hour later, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay the last group first. ‘”First the owner paid the last group to be hired. He gave them a full day’s wage, even though they had only worked one hour! Then he paid those hired next to last, and so on, until he came to those who had worked all day. To every worker he gave the same amount of money.
“Those hired first complained, ‘We thought we would get more than them. Those last men only worked one hour. We sweated in the hot sun all day long.’
“The owner said, ‘Friends, I’m being fair. You were paid the wage we agreed on earlier. If I choose to give my money away to others who have worked less than you, that’s none of your business. There’s no reason for you to wish for more. I can do what I like with my money. Take what is yours and go on home.’ ”
Jesus looked up at the puzzled faces of His disciples. “In this way the last will be first, and the first last.”
All the men were given a day’s wage, enough money for all they needed. The workers hired last were just as willing to work all day as the others. In the same way, no matter how we come to Jesus, He will always forgive us. He wants to give all of us the same gift of life in His kingdom. God treats us all the same. It is our faith in God, not our working hard, which gets us into heaven.