The significance of the first becoming last.

Wherever Jesus mentioned the aspect of rewarding those having sacrificed everything to follow Him He emphasized the aspect of first becoming last. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 20:29-30 RSV).

The power of redemption considers the aspect of humility. The work of Jesus is to unconditionally redeem humanity. Those called are set free from worldly troubles, although facing possible unprecedented persecution. The question is whether there is an advantage in being called now, rather than later.

The human expectation, at all times, is to adopt a position of superiority, rather than being the junior. What naturally appeals most, in this life, is superiority, rather than servitude. The redemption of humanity concerns addressing elements of pride. Positions of authority are as dangerous as maintaining conditions of pride, rather than humility. Jesus is Lord, but He died for wicked humanity.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:5-10 RSV).

Church leadership is as dangerous as erroneously placing some people into Christ’s position. Jesus accomplished the task of delivering humanity from sinful conditions, by deflating the prideful state. The marvellous work of God is graciously administered, thereby, calling each according to timing. Spiritual gifts are also provided according to God’s knowledge of different personalities.

As created in God’s image all humans should not be dissociated from Godly nature. True love implies that no human being can be looked down upon. It may also be essential to discourage those aspiring for seniority in God’s Church. It was not by strength that the Twelve were called, ahead of the more knowledgeable religious worshippers in Jerusalem.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus gave a parable, with a lesson on humility. A group of labourers got engaged before everyone else. Later, during the day, another group was hired. The hiring of labourers continued at different intervals, until day-end. The last group, coming at the final hour, was promised the same remuneration as those having come earlier in the morning.

When the rewarding time came, the master did what appears as very unfair. He first awarded the same remuneration to those having come at the final hour. Those having worked since morning expected to be rewarded ahead of everyone. In other words, they considered themselves seniors to newcomers. The remuneration did not consider paying according to the invested time. Let alone the cumulative experience of those having laboured since morning.

This was a clear violation of standing principles, according to norms in business practices. Labourers are rewarded according to their respective contributions if justice would be considered to prevail. The entrepreneurial organizations treating employees in that manner, obviously, lose experienced staff. The parable carries nothing as suggesting how employees ought to be rewarded in organizations.

The sole purpose of the parable was to conceal the secrets of God’s Kingdom. Anyone feeling objectionable about Jesus’ rendering is comprehensible. Parables were meant to conceal secrets of God’s Kingdom. There are three reasons for administering the labour force in that manner, as illustrated in that parable.

The first reason regards the fact that being hired first is more of a privilege than the consideration of reasonable treatment under employment. Sacrificing one’s life for the sake of God’s Kingdom grants freedom and privilege of being at the same level as Jesus and the apostles. Very few people appreciate the significance of Christianity in that condition.

This is why Jesus advised rejoicing when being persecuted (Matthew 5:10-120. This is also why, after having been flogged, the disciples went away rejoicing, counting it worthy to experience dishonour for Jesus (Acts 5:41). Those assuming that coming into Christianity is doing God a favour, are mistaken. They behave similarly to how the rejected ones at Jesus’ coming would behave (Matthew 7:21-23).

The second reason projects Jesus as the enabler. The gift of the Spirit implies that the referred believer’s activities would be God’s work, rather than his own. Experiencing physical discomfort is nothing compared to the gift of life. What remains enigmatic to most people is that those despising God’s people would, unknowingly, be despising God.

While the parable shows labourers deserving to be fairly rewarded, there is no consideration of hard work, among those called into Christianity. They enjoy being used by God, as no longer anxious about earthly survival. They ordinarily face persecution, but consider that insignificant (Matthew 6:25-32).

The third and last reason for peculiarly administering the described labour force implies humility consideration. Christ’s work aims at deflating all forms of pride, among those called. This transmits the reason why Jesus kept on emphasizing servitude, rather than the consideration of seniority ahead of others.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:1-5 NIV).

Humanly speaking, there is no advantage in becoming a Christian. Becoming a Christian implies losing everything, materially acquired since birth. A position of influence requires reversal. To be included among God’s people requires surrendering everything, including possible submission to the previously despised.

While this world is bothersome to ordinary humanity, God’s children view it differently. Physical death is feared by many people. However, God’s children are highly receptive to physical death than survival. Let alone the fact that those people would have become crafted into rejoicing under persecution.

While Jesus talked about serving other people more than being served, this is not suggesting avoiding responsibility. Standing up for the truth is most virtuous and is what a Christian is expected to do at every opportunity. One cannot feel intimidated by anything, as long as one honestly opposes a violation of Godly standards. Cowards and true Christianity are opposites.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and Him in us because he has given us the Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and him in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.

“Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:11-18 NIV.

The above passage reveals that God’s Children are not servants. The person might be viewed, ordinarily, as serving God, but, virtually, being God’s child. This dispels what is insinuated in the parable of the vineyard. The fact that God dwells in that person implies that the person would not be different from God.

This is why the same person cannot be intimidated by anything. The above Scripture also crushes the submission that Jesus is a member of the Trinity, where other God’s children are excluded. The Trinitarian idea is conjured by those idolizing Jesus, rather than applying what He taught. The gigantic requirement for becoming a Christian follower is humility.

Whatever gift one might have in God’s service, the outcome would no longer be that person’s, but Christ living in that person (Galatians 2:20). Induction into Christianity pronounces the physical person dead. A new creation would have emerged. This is completely unimaginable, when not having received grace.

While the physical person engages in God’s work, the spiritual person becomes liberated and inducted into God’s glory. The person becomes a living sacrifice, as the body counts for nothing in the equation. The upshot of it is that expecting to be rewarded for being a Christian disqualifies one from being a Christian.

The only way through, to life, is going through what one fears most. Each person endowed with the Spirit, ought to allow God’s Spirit to work. Christianity, applied according to Jesus’ teachings, is the only outlet for freedom. The rest of what is taught in mega Churches is a fallacy.

Parables were not designed for the purpose of easy understanding to ordinary listeners. Those having become God’s children carry a different import in understanding. This was revealed by Jesus when responding to the disciples, seeking an explanation, regarding reasons for preaching in parables.

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables, so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:10-12 NIV).

The parable of the vineyard; unreasonable as appearing to be, discourages outsiders. But cannot discourage those having become God’s children. Those people no longer have any connection with the things of this world. Being at God’s service is their daily meal. They cannot consider themselves God’s servants. They would have become free, as God’s children.

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:12-17 NIV).

The significance of the first becoming last highlights that, humanly speaking; the most zealous are commonly driven by human nature. For instance, Simon Peter’s behaviour almost caused him to be sifted. A casual analysis makes one assume that Peter’s fanaticism pleased God, but the opposite was true.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon; that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:31-34 NIV).

Simon Peter’s attitude affects many believers, in the faith. Such people display being more committed to Christianity than others. When Jesus highlights the aspect of the first becoming last, He brings the aspect of humility into perspective. As mentioned previously, those chosen to become God’s children hold nothing to claim as their contribution to Christianity. There is no reason to assume being wiser than those not yet called.

The precious gift of the Holy Spirit, justifying one to be God’s child, cannot be anything to boast about. It is as unconditional as being born white or black is unconditional. One can acquire a doctorate in Theology, but that is not what makes one acceptable ahead of the uneducated. This is just as being uneducated is not necessarily held as a precondition by God. God looks for a humble heart, regardless of whether a person is educated or not educated.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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