Mt 20:1-16. Parable of the
Laborers in the Vineyard.
This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely
connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter's
question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had
left all for Christ. It is designed to show that while they
would be richly rewarded, a certain equity would still be observed
towards later converts and workmen in His service.
1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man
that is an householder, &c.—The figure of a vineyard, to
represent the rearing of souls for heaven, the culture required and
provided for that purpose, and the care and pains which God takes in
that whole matter, is familiar to every reader of the Bible. (Ps 80:8-16; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Lu
20:9-16; Joh 15:1-8). At
vintage time, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, labor was scarce, and
masters were obliged to be early in the market to secure it. Perhaps
the pressing nature of the work of the Gospel, and the comparative
paucity of laborers, may be incidentally suggested, Mt 9:37, 38. The "laborers," as in Mt 9:38, are first, the official
servants of the Church, but after them and along with them all
the servants of Christ, whom He has laid under the weightiest
obligation to work in His service.
2. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a
penny—a usual day's hire.
he sent them into his vineyard.
3. And he went out about the third
hour—about nine o'clock, or after a fourth of the working day
had expired: the day of twelve hours was reckoned from six to six.
and saw others standing idle in the market
4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the
vineyard; and whatsoever is right—just, equitable, in
proportion to their time.
I will give you. And they went their way.
5. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth
hour—about noon, and about three o'clock in the
and did likewise—hiring and sending
into his vineyard fresh laborers each time.
6. And about the eleventh hour—but one
hour before the close of the working day; a most unusual hour both for
offering and engaging
and found others standing idle, and saith, Why
stand ye here all the day idle?—Of course they had not been
there, or not been disposed to offer themselves at the proper time; but
as they were now willing, and the day was not over, and "yet there was
room," they also are engaged, and on similar terms with all the
8. So when even was come—that is, the
reckoning time between masters and laborers (see De 24:15); pointing to the day of final
the lord of the vineyard saith unto his
steward—answering to Christ Himself, represented "as a Son
over His own house" (Heb 3:6; see
Mt 11:27; Joh 3:35; 5:27).
Call the labourers and give them their hire,
beginning from the last unto the first—Remarkable direction
this—last hired, first paid.
9. And when they came that were hired about the
eleventh hour, they received every man a penny—a full day's
10. But when the first came, they supposed that
they should have received more—This is that calculating,
mercenary spirit which had peeped out—though perhaps very
slightly—in Peter's question (Mt 19:27), and which this parable was designed
once for all to put down among the servants of Christ.
11. And when they had received it, they murmured
against the goodman of the house—rather, "the householder,"
the word being the same as in Mt 20:1.
12. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour,
and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and
heat—the burning heat.
of the day—who have wrought not only
longer but during a more trying period of the day.
13. But he answered one of
them—doubtless the spokesman of the complaining party.
and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not
thou agree with me for a penny? &c.
15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with
mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?—that is, "You
appeal to justice, and by that your mouth is shut; for the sum
you agreed for is paid you. Your case being disposed of, with the terms
I make with other laborers you have nothing to do; and to grudge the
benevolence shown to others, when by your own admission you have been
honorably dealt with, is both unworthy envy of your neighbor, and
discontent with the goodness that engaged and rewarded you in his
service at all."
16. So the last shall be first, and the first
last—that is, "Take heed lest by indulging the spirit of
these murmurers at the penny given to the last hired, ye miss your own
penny, though first in the vineyard; while the consciousness of having
come in so late may inspire these last with such a humble frame, and
such admiration of the grace that has hired and rewarded them at all,
as will put them into the foremost place in the end."
for many be called, but few
chosen—This is another of our Lord's terse and pregnant
sayings, more than once uttered in different connections. (See Mt 19:30;
22:14). The "calling" of
which the New Testament almost invariably speaks is what divines call
effectual calling, carrying with it a supernatural operation on
the will to secure its consent. But that cannot be the meaning of it
here; the "called" being emphatically distinguished from the "chosen."
It can only mean here the "invited." And so the sense is, Many receive
the invitations of the Gospel whom God has never "chosen to salvation
through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2Th 2:13). But what, it may be asked, has
this to do with the subject of our parable? Probably this—to
teach us that men who have wrought in Christ's service all their days
may, by the spirit which they manifest at the last, make it too evident
that, as between God and their own souls, they never were chosen
workmen at all.
Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit
Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and
Resurrection—The Ambitious Request
of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr
10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).
For the exposition, see on Mr
Mt 20:29-34. Two Blind Men
Healed. ( = Mr 10:46-52; Lu 18:35-43).
For the exposition, see on Lu