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First: last. Last: first. Why?

Many who are first will be last, and the last first. Because the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is righteous I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 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 no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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 not unrighteous towards you. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.Matthew 19: 26 – 20: 16
 
Sir Philip Green is very newsworthy. These days the former owner of BHS regularly features in the media pictured on or around his new £100,000.000 super yacht. He must be (one of) the “first”. On the other hand the BHS pensioners and deferred pensioners are looking forward (unless someone intervenes) to much reduced pensions. Should we regard them as “last”

The originator of this first/last and last/first conundrum (truth?) is Jesus Christ. He used it at beginning and end of his talk  in the extract in bold above from Matthew’s biography. In between, starting with the word “Because….” he gives the reason for this truth.

 
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‘Sin’s misery and God’s mercy are both beyond measure.’ (Anon.)
“Heaven’s realm is like an autonomous Chief Executive. He went out around 6 a.m. to hire labourers for his vineyard. After contracting with these labourers for £100 a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out again about 9 a.m. he saw others standing idle available for hire, and said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is righteous I will give it to you.’ So they went.” 

Does heaven’s realm really have an autonomous CEO? Does he only and always give what is righteous? What is righteous? It’s what the CEO gives.

“Going out again at 12 noon and at 3 p.m., the CEO did likewise. At about 5 p.m. he went out again and found others standing there. He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle the whole day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard as well.’ And when evening came, the LORD of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and give them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ When those who started at 5 p.m. came, each of them received £100.” 

Does the CEO in heaven’s realm really give like that? Many people do not see the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ as a giver. Are they correct?

“But when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received £100. On taking it they grumbled at the autonomous CEO, 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.’” 

Equality? They did receive equal - £100. The problem was not that the CEO was a giver but that he gave others (and not me) what they didn’t deserve. That just will not do.  

“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not unrighteous towards you. Did you not agree with me for £100? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’”

 
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‘God has two hands, a left hand of justice and a right hand of mercy.’(John Boys, minister, 1571-1625)
What do you make of this “Because” for the first/last last/first truth? Is it that "the first will be last" because the heavenly CEO is righteous? (Sir Philip Green? On Jesus’ parallel he, now first, may one day be last.) 

And is it that "the last shall be first" because the heavenly CEO is good? (The BHS pensioners? On Jesus’ parallel, the gift is for those, good or bad, who hear and follow the CEO’s call and expect only good from him. He is good.)
 
Richard Syvret

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