Last First (Matthew #97)

One of the things I do with the parables is I read what the point of the parable is first, and then go back and see how it applies to the parable. In this case the point of the parable is found in verse 16. The illustration is that the first are last and the last first; and many are called, but only few are chosen.


  • There is another householder with a vineyard parable in Matthew 21. In both parables the householder is the same person, God the Father.
  • The obvious question I think, is this fair? In what way is it not fair if it’s not fair?
  • The follow up question, does it matter if it’s fair?
  • Is the employer evil or good? Remember the chapter before this chapter when Jesus said only God is good. 
  • Now, what you think about the householder is what you think about God.


  • Laborers who agreed on their wages despise their wages b/c the householder was good to others. They thought they were more deserving.
  • The vineyard didn’t belong to them. The business didn’t belong to them.
  • It’s reinforced over and over again in the parable that everyone is getting what is right. No one is being short changed.
    • Does that mean market conditions changed as the day went on? Apparently so.
    • Does that mean that the laborers hired later in the day were paid according to what they gathered instead of by the hour? Possibly.
    • Bottom line is the householder is a good man who pays what’s right.
  • Some people who got exactly what they bargained for despised the goodness of the householder.
  • Look at Romans 2:3-4. What kind of foolishness despises the goodness of God? Only the kind that says, I deserve more!


  • Many called few chosen is first a principle in 1 Samuel 16:8. David’s brothers are all called to Samuel to see which one will be king. More are called than there are chosen. After all the brothers are rejected Samuel finds out Jesse has another boy who is in the field. After seven boys are rejected, David is chosen to the shock of everyone. The brothers thought for sure they were more qualified, but this is God’s choice and David is the only one actually qualified for the position.
  • Many called few chosen shows up again in Matthew 22 in the parable of king’s wedding for his son. He invites guests who all make excuses as to why they can’t make it. Finally he calls strangers to the wedding, as many as would show up. Again many are called but few are chosen.
  • Another time it shows up is in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 where people who feel like they deserve more from God end up disqualifying themselves.
  • The interesting equity of the whole thing is that everyone actually gets exactly what they’re looking for.
    • The early hires agreed to their wages and were paid. Kind of like the Pharisees who look for the praise of men and they have their reward.
    • The late hires are just hoping the employer will be good to them since it’s late in the day. They haven’t been able to make any money to feed their families and they’re just hoping someone is good enough to still hire them. There is!