Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PARABLE OF THE
LABORERS IN THE
This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the
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.
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
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
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 place--unemployed.
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 afternoon.
and did likewise--hiring and sending into his vineyard fresh laborers
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 rest.
8. So when even was come--that is, the reckoning time between
masters and laborers (see
pointing to the day of final account.
the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward--answering to Christ
Himself, represented "as a Son over His own house"
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 wages.
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
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
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
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
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.
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"
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.
JOHN, AND THE
For the exposition, see on
For the exposition, see on