A Day’s Wage

“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (Matthew 19:30).

Matthew 20:1-7 familiarizes the reader with the scenario of a parable. It would have been common for employment arrangements to have been made in this manner. At a designated location in the city, all of the able-bodied men without jobs would gather together and make themselves available to landowners who were in need of laborers that day. In the parable, notice a few things about the owner of the vineyard. First, it is clear that he represents God. He is in charge of calling people to serve him, and is also in control of the wage. The laborers and the owner all agreed to a set price, so there was no deception involved by either party, just as God makes the terms of the kingdom of heaven clear to us. Throughout the day, the same opportunity for service is presented to even more people, some arriving to the work all the way until there was very little daylight left. Also see that there is always more room for workers in the vineyard (20:7), just as there is no limit to the number of people who can be saved. Next, a problem arises at the end of the work day (20:8-12) when the owner distributes the same payment to all the laborers regardless of when they started working. The men who had been in the vineyard all day complained that this was unfair and that they should be given proper compensation for their work.

Indeed, a lesson that we can learn from this is that many people in the world can only find fault with God. How many of us are always trying to find something to complain about? Or how often are God’s promises not good enough?

Is it unfair that babes in Christ be given the same spiritual and physical benefits as longtime members of the Lord’s body of saved people?

We sometimes feel like the workers in this parable. Do you believe that your Christianity is more or less important than somebody else’s?

The landowner resolves the situation by explaining a few things to the grumbling workers. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?” (20:13) Indeed, no wrong had been done! In a completely fair and lawful manner, both the laborer and the owner agreed on a denarius as a fair price for a day’s worth of work. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” (20:15) And the answer is undeniable. “Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” At the root of the problem is envy. These laborers were not arguing with the owner because the wage discrepancy actually was unfair, they simply thought it was unfair because they wanted more.