The Honor of the Eleventh Hour Labourers
by Tom Stewart
May 22, 1999
Our LORD told us, "Occupy
till I come" (Luke 19:13). Whether we find ourselves laboring
as "fishers of men" (Mark 1:17) or providing for "his
own" (1Timothy 5:8), all of the Saints are called to be
labourers in the LORD's Vineyard. "For
the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a Man that is an Householder, which went out early
in the morning to hire labourers into His Vineyard" (Matthew
20:1). From the beginning, our LORD has recruited to Himself a multitude of prophets,
apostles, and labourers like you and I, i.e., "partakers
of the Heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1). "And when He had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day,
He sent them into His Vineyard" (Matthew 20:2). We have
already been commissioned to "teach all
nations... all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
(Matthew 28:19,20). "And He went out about
the third hour [nine o'clock],
and saw others standing idle in the marketplace" (Matthew
The Father's Plan of Salvation is so vast that we cannot be idle. We must work, just as the Son worked, i.e., "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). "4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again He went out about the sixth [twelve o'clock] and ninth hour [three o'clock], and did likewise" (Matthew 20:4-5). It is amazing that we, the Eleventh Hour Labourers, have been engaged on the same terms as our Worthy Predecessors, i.e., being granted the "free gift" (Romans 5:18) of salvation. "6 And about the eleventh hour [five o'clock, the second to the last hour of the Jewish day] He went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto Him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive" (Matthew 20:6-7).
Of course, our predecessors do not presently begrudge our reception of the same salvation as they, but it is understandable (humanly speaking) that the senior would be accorded more privilege than the younger, i.e., "ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder" (1Peter 5:5). "8 So when even was come, the Lord of the Vineyard saith unto His steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny" (Matthew 20:8-10). Possibly, this could be a depiction of Wayward Israel or Carnal Professed Christianity, but the LORD did level a scathing rebuke at the Apostle Peter for his fleshly reasoning, i.e., "He rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind Me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men" (Mark 8:33). "11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the Goodman of the House, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day" (Matthew 20:11-12).
The Good LORD (2Chronicles 30:18) is also the Righteous Judge (2Timothy 4:8), and His judgment is always right. And, we are but a "drop of a bucket" (Isaiah 40:15) compared to the notable accomplishments of our Worthy Predecessors. "13 But He answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (Matthew 20:13-15). Amazingly, we, the Eleventh Hour Labourers, have the opportunity to be the servant of all, i.e., "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all" (Mark 9:35); and thus, honored by our LORD. "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16).
May we humble ourselves "under the mighty hand of God" (1Peter 5:6), and recognize our great privilege of being sent forth as "labourers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2). May the LORD of the Harvest increase our numbers and grant to us the fruit of souls for the LORD Jesus. "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6). And, may all the honor, power, and glory of anything accomplished be rightfully laid before the throne of the KING of Kings, and LORD of Lords. "Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11).
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