The Last shall be First (by Thomas P Schaller)

I had never heard of Thomas P Schaller. Apparently he is a senior pastor in Baltimore, in the US. Evidently he believes strongly in the doctrine of grace, and this book certainly reflects that.  I would not have come across it, but for a special offer a few months ago, when it was free for download in Kindle form.

'The Last shall be First' is a very short book - apparently it's only 26 pages in paperback. In my view, that makes it more a booklet than a book. The subject is the Biblical parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20), and after including it (in King James format) the rest of the book expounds on it.

The writing is good, on the whole, and the points made are very clear: that God's grace supersedes what we often think of as 'fairness' or 'justice'. There are lots of books which explain this message at length, so it was quite interesting to read a short account based almost entirely on just this one parable.

Having said that, it didn't say anything that I had not previously read several times before, and although it wasn't a long book at all - one I could easily have read in one sitting - I kept finding myself forgetting what I had just read and needing a break. It wasn't that there was a whole lot to ponder, although some of the reminders included in the book were quite encouraging. It was just that the style was pretty similar throughout, with little to jolt me or inspire me to take it in fully.

While there are some examples given of what grace might or might not mean in 21st century life, they are all quite impersonal. I always enjoy reading anecdotes from a writer's point of view, but I didn't notice any in this. In places it read almost like a sermon rather than a book, but without any humorous stories or personal examples. I had no idea that the author was a pastor until I found something about him online to give the link above.

Still, there wasn't anything I disagreed with, and the flow of writing worked well. Certainly worth reading if you can get it free, and if you want a reminder about what grace means without reading a full-length book. On the other hand, I really don't think it's worth paying even a couple of pounds for the Kindle edition, or more still for the paperback.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 9th September 2013

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