The Last and the First

"Jesus says 'For the Kingdom of heaven is like the landowner who...'"

Matthew 20:1-16

September 20, 2014, Words By: Penny Salazar-Phillips, Image By: "Last Light (Avoid Mud)" by Hailey E. Herrera

“Pray then in this way…. Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:9-13

For those of us who wrestle with earning our place – either in heaven or in our office – through good and hard work, this passage about a lavishly generous landowner might not go down easy. This landowner’s economics are not like those we learned in school, or on the streets.

Obviously, this passage tells us that the landowner of the kingdom is concerned for all his workers. The invitation to join in keeps coming throughout the day. When I sit with these words in lectio divina, it appears the kingdom is about giving everyone the opportunity to participate in the life, the purpose, and the work of the kingdom. It all belongs to him and he is generous. It is about how he chooses to love and lavishly pour grace on everyone.

But for a moment let’s place ourselves among the workers. What is our response? Am I the first or the last? Am I the jealous worker who has toiled all day long? Am I the grateful one who joined the team at the last minute and reaped the full benefits?

Or perhaps there are better questions. What were all these workers to learn about themselves and about God as they encountered this part of their individual journeys?

The ones hired in the morning – did they need to work all day and reap the benefits of a full day’s labor?

Those hired at the end of the day – was theirs a gift of purpose when all seemed lost?

So it brings me to think that we all have a place, and I ask myself what else we receive along with our wages. As they stood in line to receive their reward, did workers unwittingly already hold in their hands, and in their experiences of the day, riches that they did not readily recognize? Was that not part of the “your kingdom come, your will be done” plan?

Once I loose myself from the math in which I think that working harder or longer should earn me more, the mystery of the kingdom always strikes me with wonder and comfort. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord in Isaiah 55:8.

When our thoughts (and feelings!) center on fairness, reward, and ourselves, we are most often looking in the wrong places. As our friend Richard Rohr says, after any true God experience, you know that you are a part of a much bigger whole, as if you are actually inside of a larger mystery.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth…

Penny Salazar-Phillips
Director of Joshua Station at Mile High Ministries
Street Psalms Community

About The Author

Penny Salazar-Phillips