Matthew 20:1 - 16 (HCSB) The Parable of the Vineyard Workers
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. To those men he said, ‘You also go to my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and at three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’So what secrets of the kingdom can we learn from this parable? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.
“‘You also go to my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’
“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!’
“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first last.”
This reminds me a bit of the lesson every child needs to learn in life. Children will often say "That's not fair!". And often the only response is "Life is not always fair." As adults we often need reminders of this as well. I don't know why life isn't always fair, but it seems to be a universal truth.
My other thought with this passage is it is not up to us to figure out who is first in the kingdom, whatever that means. We may have some ideas about who God is most pleased with, who His special people are... but don't get upset if it turns out opposite of what makes sense to us.