Theme: Mercy and Grace
This week’s lesson teaches us the reasons why we should serve the Lord.
So the last will be first, and the first last.”
There is one last point. I am not sure Jesus had anything like this in mind when he told this provocative parable, but it is suggested by that most important verse which both introduces the story and ends it: “So the last will be first, and the first last.”So the last will be first, and the first last.” (v. 30). The important word here is “many,” for the teaching is not that every person who begins early with God and works for him throughout a lifetime will inevitably be last or that everyone who begins late will inevitably be first. That will be true for many people, but it will not be true for all.
Many who begin early will lose their reward or not even actually come to faith in Christ and salvation because they are approaching God in a false or mercenary spirit, 0n the basis of their merit and not on the basis of God’s grace. Many who enter last will be first because, although they begin late,‘ they nevertheless recognize that their status is due to God’s grace alone and praise God for it. But neither of those cases is true for everyone. No one is shut up to just those two alternatives.
It is not necessary either to start early and finish last or start last and finish first. In fact, neither is best. The truly desirable thing is to start early and work with all the power you have, not for reward but out of genuine love for our master, Jesus Christ, and when you have finished still to say, “I am nevertheless an unprofitable servant.” It is people like that whom God delights to honor.
Daniel was such a person. He was carried off to Babylon with three of his friends at a very early age, probably when he was about fifteen or sixteen. He was immersed in the splendors of the great Babylonian empire and was trained for high position and responsibility. He could have been swept away by the temptations. But Daniel decided at that early age not to “defile himself” with the royal enticements (Dan. 1:8). He determined to serve God, and he was still there decades later as an old man, serving God, and hearing God say, “Go your way till the end. You Will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (Dan. 12:13). Daniel served God for seventy years (from 606 to 536 BC). Moses served God for eighty years. Abraham served God for a hundred years.
This is the challenge I put before you, especially if you are young. Do not wait to serve God. Do not wait until the ninth or eleventh hour of your all-too-brief life. Start now. Serve now. Keep at your service year after year. And When you come to the end you will not say, “What am I owed for my service?” You will say, “What a joy it has been to serve my gracious and loving Lord!”1
1 Portions of this chapter have been adapted from a study ofthis same parable appealing in James Montgomery Boice, The Parables of Jesus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), pp. 57-64.
What word is very significant in the closing phrase of this parable? Why?
How is Daniel an example to us?
Why should we labor hard in life?
Think about opportunities to serve God you might have missed until now.
Do not wait to serve God. . .. Start now. Serve now. Keep at your service year after year.