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.” (Matthew 20:8-16 ESV)
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV)
Am I logging all my efforts in ministry … maybe time, money, energy? It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a worthless exercise. Acting as a spiritual accountant leads me dangerously down the path of eventually thinking God owes me and nothing can be further from the truth. It is all grace, beginning to end. None of us ever leave the place of being an unworthy servant who has only done what was his duty (Luke 17:10). This doesn’t mean that our Lord is stingy or unkind or fails in some way to lavish us with His grace—no, He constantly demonstrates that He gives us way more than we could ever deserve or imagine. I am simply stating that it is ALL grace.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones hit the nail on the head when he wrote that we are to be like Christ. “He did not look at Himself, He did not consider Himself and His own interests only; He made Himself of no reputation, He laid aside the insignia of His eternal glory. He did not regard His equality with God as something to hold on to and say: ‘Come what may I will not let it go.’ Not at all, He laid it aside, He humbled Himself, He forgot Himself, and He went through and endured and did all He did, looking only to the glory of God. Nothing else mattered to Him but that the Father should be glorified and that men and women should come to the Father. That is the secret. Not watching the clock, not assessing the amount of work, not keeping a record in a book, but forgetting everything except the glory of God, the privilege of being called to work for Him at all, the privilege of being a Christian, remembering only the grace that has ever looked upon us and removed us from darkness to light.”
It is our gracious Father who then blesses and rewards. He withholds no good thing from His children. He truly knows how to give us the very best. Lloyd-Jones again wrote: “…there is nothing I know that is so romantic as God’s method of accountancy. Be prepared for surprises in this Kingdom. You never know what is going to happen. The last shall be first. What a complete reversal of our materialistic outlook, the last first, the first last, everything upside down. The whole world is turned upside down by grace. It is not of man, it is of God, it is the Kingdom of God. How excellent this is.”
One of the many things I appreciate about Lloyd-Jones is his pure delight in God and His grace. There’s no legalism here, no sense of “look what I’ve done for You today God.” None of that at all. Lloyd-Jones is blown away by the fact that he has been rescued by God’s grace through the Lord Jesus Christ and he now has the awesome privilege of serving his great King. That’s it and isn’t that enough for us all?
(Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes taken from Spiritual Depressoin: Its Causes and Its Cures, 131, 132.)