Today we have more jostling and trying to get to the front of the line, despite what Jesus just taught about the proper order – keep God first, then others before yourself. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. One of the last verses from yesterday’s Matthew 19 was Peter asking, “What then will there be for us?” (19:27b NIV) In today’s reading of Matthew 20, James’ and John’s mother will ask if her two sons can sit at Jesus’ right and left when Jesus sits on his throne. What’s in it for me (and my kids)? How can I be first, best, greatest?
Jesus’ reply isn’t what they were looking for. First, in continuing his answer to Peter, he tells the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. The workers hired first worked all day and worked well and got what they had worked for – one denarius (a fair wage for a day of work). It would have been fine, except that, all day long the boss kept hiring others to come get the job done – some ended up just working the last hour. And, they too, received one full denarius! Where was the extra reward and recognition and pat on the back for being first, for putting more time on the clock, for working harder than any of the others? It wasn’t fair. But the boss didn’t say, “Thank you so much for pointing that injustice out to me, here’s your bonus.” Instead, he said it was time for an attitude check. You did your work well, but your selfish complaining attitude isn’t pretty. Stop questioning the master’s generosity. Stop comparing your work load and pay rate with your neighbors’. God’s got this – He’s a good boss. Your job isn’t to be boss, your job is to keep working in the vineyard – with a good attitude – not selfish and resentful but thankful and joyful for the grace and mercy the boss shows to others.
For the 3rd time in the book of Matthew – Jesus prepares his disciples for his upcoming death – this time revealing it will be through crucifixion. But they don’t get it. They still expect his kingdom to start soon in a grand and glorious manner.
The mother of James and John is planning ahead. She knows Jesus has a very special relationship with her boys so it’s time to secure their place at his side – how about the thrones on the right and left of Jesus when he becomes king? The boys agree they are ready for these places of honor. Jesus said if you are trying to be great – if you are trying to be first – SERVE OTHERS. Give up your life, your time, your pride and selfishness. Put the needs of others before your own. Just as Jesus did – over and over again – with his life and then with his death.
The world doesn’t need more Christians trying to be first and greatest. The world needs more Christian servants joyfully working in the vineyard and caring for the needs of others.
Similar to some of Paul’s other letters, he begins the book with an introduction of himself. To start off, Paul calls himself, ̈a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.¨ (Titus 1:1) Paul’s willingness to serve allowed him to reach many churches and impact a whole lot more people. He clearly states that he is a servant of God to help the faith of God’s chosen.
Throughout Paul’s letters we can find how he did this – by mentoring people in godliness. This includes Timothy, Titus, Philemon and entire churches in Colosse, Ephesus, Galatia, Corinth, Achaia, & Thessalonica. He consistently encouraged, prayed, and thanked God for them all. Since Paul understood that faithful churches needed Godly leaders he worked to mentor others to be those faithful leaders in the church for when Paul couldn’t be there. In verse 5 we can see Paul left Titus in charge of appointing elders for the churches on the island of Crete. He gave Titus careful instructions as well as warnings. He told Titus and the church to beware of, ̈rebellious people, mere talkers, and deceivers” who were ¨teaching things they ought not to teach ̈ (Titus 1:10,11)
Paul’s willingness to serve is shown through all of the mentoring he was able to do so that God’s word could continue to spread. This is something we should all learn from. We should encourage younger Christians as well as seek guidance from others more spiritually mature than us.
Here it is – the faith chapter! When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind! Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming. We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes. When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here. Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!
Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly. Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises! As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life. What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were! If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2? Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?
I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you. So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.
Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised? Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith. Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises. I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were! I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow. And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect. As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.
It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same! When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait. But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait. I think we need to wait actively! All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God! We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true. So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others? Are we being good examples like the ancients? Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!