“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. … And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day.’ They said to him, ‘Because nobody has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ … When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong, did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go, I choose to give to the last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge me my generosity?’” (Matthew 20:1-2,6-7,9-11)

One of the reasons I so easily accept people who have different beliefs than me is because I have usually believed what they believe at some time in my life. In high school I had a friend who tried to convince me that you are saved by the grace of God as a free gift. But I would argue with him, because that seemed unjust. I felt we should be judged on what we do. So I was like the laborers who grumbled by feeling people should receive different rewards based on their works. I did not agree with my friend as to how you were saved, yet I began to worry about how I could be saved. So I became like the laborers who were not hired until the eleventh hour. Because a denarius was what they needed each day to take care of themselves and their families, I was now worried like those not hired until the eleventh hour, fearing I might never get into the kingdom of heaven. But in College I read a letter by Martin Luther which made me understand that there is no way you can earn your way into heaven with works. So I gladly accepted my salvation by grace, as God’s free gift. Therefore I understood when my brother told me that we should really feel sorry for the eleventh hour hires, because they had to worry all day, rather than the first hired, who had the assurance early on that their needs would be taken care of. Later when I was troubled by the doctrine of Predestination determining whether a person is saved or not, the parable in Matthew 20 helped me, because Romans 9:14-16 says, “Is there injustice on God’s part?” By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have, mercy on whom I have mercy. … So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.” And the parable indicates that God will have mercy on everyone, because of his generosity. I read about this connection between the Romans 9 passage and the parable, in the book “The Inescapable Love of God” by Thomas Talbott. God knows that we all need the kingdom of heaven. So I trust God’s loving generosity to get us into Heaven eventually, first or last. What is better to trust than the inescapable love of God?

The Rev. Walter Williams has been serving the Lord since he graduated from seminary in 1966. He currently resides in McAlisterville. To comment on his column, send a letter to Standard Journal, 21 N. Arch St., Milton, Pa. 17847 or e-mail newsroom@standard-journal.com.

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