1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. The kingdom of heaven resembles a householder who hires laborers to work in his vineyard.
2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. The laborers agreed to a wage of a penny a day to work in his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, After three hours, the householder observed idle men in the marketplace.
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you.
And they went their way. (?) The householder told the idle men he would pay them a right wage.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
My first take is: Opportunity is provided in the beginning by one to all. All may choose to capitalize but may not be able at the same time. The ones who chose first are no better than the ones who chose last, their reward is still the same. This is at the discretion of the good man. One can assume the evil eye might respond differently. The one who agrees to terms with another may not change those terms, only the maker of those terms has that option.
Upon re-reading this parable, I am at first confused. When verse 4 states “they went their way” it could be understood as they left (as it is meant in verse 14). Verse 15, the householder becomes slick and uses a leap in logic by attributing the laborer’s “evil eye” to the householder’s goodness rather than his obvious lack of fairness. The householder even contradicts himself in verses 4 and 7 by telling the men he would pay them what was “right”.
Verse 16 explains the actual proceedings and but does not explain the logic. Why pay more for less? Won’t the next harvest find these early risers hiding at the tavern until the 11th hour?
In the parable each of the people and the places, wages, and hours are symbolic.
19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
The well-tended vineyard is the symbolic image of Israel, God’s obedient people of the Old Covenant Church in covenant with Yahweh.
In verse one Jesus says this parable is about the coming Kingdom of Heaven that He has come to establish; therefore this parable is about the new Israel and the New Covenant Church.
- vineyard = the Church, the kingdom of heaven on earth/house of God
- housemaster/lord of the vineyard = God
- laborers = those who serve the kingdom/house of God in the Old and New Covenants or who come to serve the kingdom at different ages in a lifetime.
- market-place = the world
- foreman who pays the promised wage for service = Jesus
- wage = salvation
- hours = the age of man in salvation history from Creation to the end of the age of man and/or the lifetime of a person from birth to the end of life
Whether a person is baptized at birth and continues to serve the Lord all his life or the person who is called in his youth or middle age or even the person who answers the call to salvation at the end of his life, God’s gift of salvation is freely given in every case.