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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
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.
4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is
right--just, equitable, in proportion to their 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
8. So when even was come--that is, the reckoning time between
masters and laborers (see
pointing to the day of final account.
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.
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
13. But he answered one of them--doubtless the spokesman of the
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 the exposition, see on Mr 10:32-45.
For the exposition, see on Lu 18:35-43.