Every now and then as I’m channel surfing, I’ll stop on the christian channel to see if there’s any interesting insights. At one point, the speaker was talking about the Rapture / Tribulation and said something to this effect: “Now some Christians want to have one foot in the world and another outside of it … they want to be just Christian enough to get the benefit, but not too christian. But it is only the Godly Christians that will be worthy.”
Um, Since when is there a Graded Scale to Christianity? Does it look something like this?
A- to A+: Christians who have believed since their childhood, fast-tracked to be pastors and leaders of the church, managers of multiple ministries, experts of Biblical knowledge, masters of interpretation and application of Scriptures (too christian)
B- to B+: Christians who have believed since they were young adults, important but not leaders of the church, dedicated to one ministry, lovers of the Bible (too christian)
C- to C+: Christians who have a history before they got to know Christ, they’re not perfect people but they really really love God, so they get bonus points for that. (not christian enough)
D- to D+: Christians who had a long history before getting to know God, their past has followed them into the church, but at least they seem to like Jesus, so they have that going for them. (not christian enough)
F- to F+: Christians who were minutes from death at the point of conversion. At least they joined the right team. (not christian enough)
It’s easy to look back on what we’ve done and give ourselves points for how well we follow scripture (+1 for each time any command was obeyed), how often we serve our communities (+1 for helping those in need, +1 for volunteering at soup kitchens, +1 for food drives, +1 for fundraisers, etc.), and for putting our all into our ministries (+1 for participation, +1 for organizing one). They can add up over the years – and surely we say to ourselves, “I’ve put in the effort, I’ve done everything in His name, surely I’m building up treasure in heaven – lots of it!”
Matthew 20: 1-16,
“20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.””
This isn’t the Parable of the First Workers, who showed up first, worked all day, and was duely rewarded for their extra effort compared to the last arrivals. This isn’t the Parable of the Right Workers, who showed up, worked the correct way and was rewarded for not making any mistakes as opposed to the last arrivals who clearly did not know what they were doing. This is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, but it’s all about how the Owner cared more for the workers than his profit margins. He was true to his word, paying them what was agreed – and he paid everybody the exact same amount, the first worker and the last, the best worker and the worst, the most diligent worker and the laziest.
No, Mr. Televangelist, there’s no difference between the worldly Christians and Godly Christians in God’s vineyard, there are no F- and no A+ on our official records. Not all people are supposed to follow in your footsteps, have multi-million dollar ministries, dozens of books published, and a television audience hanging on our every word. Many Christians will have had histories, and those histories will help us to reach people that are too intimidated by your apparent perfection to realize their best possible future. Jesus said that Tax Collectors and Prostitutes were further ahead in the line than the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes were … I don’t think that has changed. Every Christian with a history is further ahead in the line than those without because they get that it’s not their own effort that will ultimately save them.