One evening, as I sat at my desk after praying to God, I read the parable told by Jesus in Matthew 20:1-16, where the kingdom of heaven is likened to a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard, and it didn’t matter whether they went first thing in the morning or if it was in the noon or the afternoon that they went into the vineyard, their wages were all the same. When the workers who came first learned of this, they grumbled against the landowner, but the landowner replied by saying: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Mat 20:15-16). After reading these several lines of scripture from the Bible I knitted my brows and could not help but think: “It is reasonable to say that those who practice their faith in God for a long time, who forsake more and expend themselves more for the Lord and who toil and work for more years ought to be rewarded with more than those who come later, but in Scripture it says that the wages are the same for those who come early and those who come late, isn’t this God intentionally showing favoritism for those who come later?” I felt that I really didn’t understand these words, I didn’t understand what the Lord’s intention was in saying these words.
One day, I ran into a fellow church member, and while we were talking I told him about what I had been confused about for so many years. The church member said: “I used to also have this kind of misunderstanding, always failing to understand God’s will, and it wasn’t until recently when I read a certain book that I came to understand this aspect of the truth. It just so happens that I have brought that book with me today, let’s take a look at it together.” Saying this, the church member took the book out of his bag and read me a passage: “No matter how much you are able to accept, no matter how much you have heard, how much you have understood, how much you live out or how much you obtain, there is one fact: The truth, the way and the life of God is bestowed freely on each and every person, and this is fair to each and every person. God will not favor one person over another due to someone being a new believer, who has only believed for a couple of months, or someone who has believed for two years, for 10 years or for 20 years; nor will He treat anyone differently because of their age, their appearance, their gender, the family they were born into or their family’s background. Each and every person obtains the same from God. He doesn’t make anyone obtain less, or make anyone obtain much more. To each and every person this is fair and reasonable. He provides for man in time and in proportion, not letting them go hungry, cold or thirsty” (“Man is the Greatest Beneficiary of God’s Management Plan”). After finishing reading, the church member continued to speak: “In the past I also thought if those people who believed in the Lord for a long time and expended themselves more for the Lord are rewarded the same as those who have believed in the Lord for a shorter time and who expended themselves less for the Lord, then wasn’t this God showing favoritism? After reading these words I finally got rid of the misunderstanding I had of God. As it turns out, God treats each and every person fairly, He doesn’t show favoritism to any one person, regardless of whether they are a new believer or if they have believed in God for many years, and regardless of their family background, what their appearance looks like, etc., God will always provide for each and every person in accordance with their needs. It’s the same with the truth that God bestows upon us when He is carrying out His work to save man, and it’s the same for the surroundings and opportunities that He arranges for each and every one of us, and whether or not we are able to ultimately gain the truth depends upon whether or not we ourselves love the truth and pursue the truth, are able to put the Lord’s word into practice or not, and are able to perform our duties to the best of our abilities in accordance with the Lord’s will and demands. If we do not love the truth, and if we do not pursue the truth, then we will not be able to do the things that God has entrusted us with in accordance with His will, and when we come across things that do not conform to our own conceptions, then we will not try to figure out and seek out God’s will, rather, we will rely on our own analyses, so much so that we will even misunderstand God and blame God. Those who do this, even if they have believed in God for many years and toiled and worked a lot, in the end they will obtain nothing, they will even lose the opportunity that God bestows upon them to obtain the truth, and in the eyes of God these people are evil-doers, they can only be eliminated and punished by God. Then there are some people who, although they have believed in God for only a short period, they have hearts that thirst for and pursue the truth, and whenever things befall them they are able to pray to God often to seek the truth, and once they are able to come to an understanding of God’s will, they will put it into practice according to His word, their corrupt disposition will change little by little as they follow God and they obtain the truth and live out a normal humanity. Such people will have a good final destination.
“I thought back on when God led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness, how those able-bodied men and those tall ‘warriors’ that people looked up to did not seek God’s will, and even issued complaints to God, and how in the end they fell dead in the wilderness. But then those women and children who had pure obedience, who put things into practice according to God’s word and who obeyed God’s sovereignty and arrangements, in the end they entered into the good land of Canaan. In addition, the Jewish chief priests, scribes and Pharisees were familiar with the Scripture and proficient in the law, some even traversed oceans and continents to spread the gospel, feeling as though they were the ones who had believed in God the longest and toiled and worked the most, and so they were the most qualified to welcome the Messiah and to be selected by God. Yet, when the Lord Jesus came to carry out work, they knew that the Lord Jesus’ words were spoken with authority and power, but they were stubborn and arrogant, they were unwilling to set aside their positions to seek the truth. Even more so, they didn’t receive God’s new work, and they even used all of their knowledge of the Scripture to condemn and resist the Lord’s new work. In the end, in order to protect their own positions and livelihoods, they nailed the Lord to the cross, causing them to suffer the Lord’s curses and punishments. But all those disciples selected by the Lord and those Jewish people who followed the Lord, and the people from all the nations beyond Israel, even though they had not believed in God for as long as the Pharisees and did not have as much knowledge of the Scripture, and even more so had not toiled and worked, or traversed oceans and continents to spread the gospel as the Pharisees had, still they had hearts that revered God, and because they thirsted for and sought out the truth they received the Lord’s salvation.
“From this it can be seen that if we determine who is qualified to receive God’s reward and blessings based on who has believed in God for a long time and who has expended a lot of energy and toiled and worked a lot, then this kind of viewpoint does not conform to the truth, it is an erroneous way of thinking. God certainly does not issue rewards and punishments or decide people’s ends based on these external factors, rather, He looks at whether or not we have received the truth through believing in God, and whether or not we are people who follow the will of God. It’s just like what is said in the book: ‘I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God will be punished. This is an immutable fact’ (‘You Ought to Prepare a Sufficiency of Good Deeds for Your Destination’). ‘To God, no matter whether a person is great or insignificant, as long as they can listen to Him, obey His instructions and what He entrusts, and can cooperate with His work, His will, and His plan, so that His will and His plan can be accomplished smoothly, then that conduct is worthy of His commemoration and worthy of receiving His blessing. God treasures such people, and He cherishes their actions and their love and affection for Him. This is God’s attitude’ (‘God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself I’).
“These two passages clearly explain the standards by which God measures man and God’s attitude toward man. God has a righteous and holy disposition, He is fair and impartial toward each and every person, God does not look at whether a person is of low or high status, or at their seniority, or how long they’ve believed in God, or how much suffering they have endured, rather, He looks at whether or not a person pursues the truth, whether or not a person loves God and has a heart that obeys God, whether or not they are able to consider and satisfy God’s will in all things, as well as whether they will be able to ultimately gain the truth through their faith in God. Among those of us who believe in God, regardless of whether we are priests and elders or ordinary believers, each and every one of us who thirsts for and seeks the truth, who is humble and obedient is able to receive God’s enlightenment, and is able to receive God’s blessing just like those who came later to the vineyard; anyone who believes in God for a long time but does not pursue the truth, and instead holds on to fallacies, living within their conceptions and imagination, conceited with and showing off their seniority, no matter how much suffering they endure and how much they expend themselves, no matter how qualified they are, in the end they will not obtain the truth, and they will all be eliminated. This is a fact that nobody can change, and this is what has been decided by God’s righteous disposition.”
Hearing the church member’s fellowship, I came to understand that no matter how much God’s work does not conform to man’s conceptions, God is still righteous, we cannot be picky with or doubt anything that God does, we ought to let go of our conceptions and seek and obey. It’s just like what is said in the word of God: “Everything that God does is righteous. Though you are unable to discover it, you should not make judgment as you please. If it appears to you as irrational, or if you have a conception about it, and then say God is not righteous, this is the most unreasonable” (“How to Understand the Righteous Disposition of God”). God observes us from the bottom of our hearts, God has a thorough understanding of us, God knows best who truly believes in Him and who loves the truth, and who is a hypocrite and detests the truth, God decides our ends based not on how long we have believed in God or how much work we have carried out, but rather on whether or not in essence we love the truth and whether or not we will ultimately gain the truth through our faith in God. This truly is so fitting! Now I can see that my point of view that “God was showing favoritism for those who come later by making the wages the same for those who come early and those who come late to the vineyard” was mistaken!
Thanks be to God for solving this riddle in my heart, may all glory be to God!