A Dislike Of Deathbed Conversions or A Total Misunderstanding of Grace

Jesus shared the following parable:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house 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 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 right I will give you.' 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 laborers 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 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 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."
This is one of Jesus' more famous parables. In it, Jesus tells about a master who hired workers early in the day to work the whole day. Then the master went out later in the day and hired more to work the rest of the day. Near the end of the day, the master did the same. Those who worked just a short while received the same pay as those who worked the whole day. Jesus described those who worked the whole day as being angry about those who worked just a short while receiving equal pay. A direct parallel at the time of writing would be teaching that kingdom of God is open to the Gentiles, as it always was, along with the people of Israel, who had been the people of God for a longer time. A modern parallel would be the people who have grown up in the church their whole life being frustrated with an elderly person accepting Christ in the last moments of her life. We see jealousy over those who got what they really did not deserve by those who felt they earned it.

A while back I heard a sermon on this parable. The preacher shared his own struggle with being jealous over death bed conversions and admitted that his jealousy was wrong. He will work his whole life for the Lord while the person who comes right at the end receives the same blessing; that's frustrating to my preacher friend, and it's also frustrating to others with a similar mindset. In the frame of worldly reason, that just does not seem fair. The source of this frustration is a misunderstanding of two things: the life God has planned for us and God's amazing grace.

When I look back on my years of wandering, I do not look fondly. I do not think those times were great despite the festiveness of the world being exemplified in the way I lived. I look back and wish that I could have been in love with the Lord the whole time. My life in the Lord is much better than that life ever was. I missed out on a lot by wandering aimlessly.

We find ourselves jealous of people in the world when we feel that the people in the world are living a life better than the one we are living in God. When we do not strive to experience God every moment of every day, we often miss out on what God's intention for our life is. Oftentimes we are not living in the joy and peace that God wants us to live in, and our sad, selfish spiritual life creates in us a secret love for the world. Eventually, this secret love, if left unchecked, could morph into indulging those secret loves. The cost of such an indulgence could be our faith. Whether we indulge in it or not, the secret love for the world is only there because we do not experience the Christlike full life - the life God has desired for us to live.

When we experience God to the fullest throughout our days, we will not be jealous of the people that come late in life and receive the same eternal reward as we receive because we know that the time we spent working for the Lord is also a great reward. We were happy to work because we love the privilege of being a follower of Christ. And we should be overjoyed, like the Lord becomes, to have more workers no matter what stage of life the new worker is in.

After the sermon, I went over and talked to my friend about what I just shared here. An elderly lady was there and she shared, "If you have a giant cup and it is full, you will be just as happy as those who have a small cup and it is full." She was implying that those who are faithful all day will have a giant cup while those who are faithful just a short while will only have a small cup. This idea that she will be rewarded more in heaven for her life of work compared to the reward that a recent convert would receive is a complete misunderstanding of grace. What she fails to see is that her works are not what makes her right with God. Her works are, in themselves, a blessing from God. We are privileged to be involved in His work. She is only right with God because God is infinitely gracious despite our failings. Our misunderstanding of the grace of God and an overestimation of our righteousness is what leads us to think we are more deserving than others. None of us are more deserving. It is only by grace that we spiritually breathe.

If we live in the realization that our life in Christ is a better life than the other lives we could be leading, then we will not be jealous of people who come late in life to the Lord. If we understand that our life in Christ is solely available through the grace of God, then we will not think that we deserve a greater reward than those who come to Jesus later in life. May we live life to the fullest in the grace and love that Christ shares with us.