Many are Called …
© 27 October 2021 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
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… which helps reveal that few are chosen.


In Matthew chapter 20, Jesus tells a parable of people hired to work until sunset for a fixed fee, but hired all through the day so that some got that a much higher hourly wage than others. The conclusion of this is “‍many be called, but few chosen.‍”Matthew 20:16

In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus tells a parable of people invited to a feast. Some turn down the invitation, others come but incorrectly attired and are thrown out. The conclusion of this is “‍many are called, but few are chosen.‍”Matthew 22:14

Joseph Smith once wrote a letter where he quoted this line, but not in context. Rather, he asked “‍there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?‍” and in answer to his own question discussed people trying to be a priesthood without being righteous, people trying to cover their sins, and people exercising dominion.D&C 121:34–40

For many years, I thought of these three uses of this phrase as mostly unrelated. But recently I noticed something in common to them all.

The early laborers felt entitled to more than a day’s wages because others were being given more. The under-dressed guests felt entitled to show up unprepared because others refused to show up at all. The bad leaders felt entitled to boss people because others had less authority and to cover their own sins because others sinned more.

In other words, all three instances people who are not chosen are identified by their assumption that they are better than others. If no one else had been called, the first laborers may have appeared content but their sense of entitlement to more instead of enough would still have been there, just unrevealed. If no one had turned down the invitations the slovenly guests might not have thought they could get away with being merely better than that, but their lack of respect for the feats would still have been there. If the leaders had not been placed over others they may never have revealed their self-importance, but would still not have been righteous inside. It is the very fact that many are called that reveals that many are not chosen.

I’ve had occasion to ponder this of late. I’ve had the opposite of each of these experiences: I’ve been given more because I predated others, had my flaws excused because I was better than some, and received praise and honor for doing my duty. The light that discerns those worth choosing has not been shined on me.

When it is, what will it see?

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