Matthew 20:10
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
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(10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more.—Up to this time we may think of the disciples as having listened with an eager interest, yet only half-perceiving, if at all, the drift of the parable, looking, it may be, for some payment to the first-called labourers proportionate to the duration of their service. Now, unless they were altogether blind, they must have seen their own thoughts reflected in the parable. They too, as their question showed, had been expecting to receive more. Eternal life was not enough for them, without some special prerogative and precedence over others. The fact that the first labourers were paid their wages gives a touch of gentleness to what would otherwise have seemed the severity of the parable. The presence of a self-righteous, self-seeking spirit mars the full blessedness of content; but if the work has been done, it does not deprive men altogether of their reward. The labourers who murmured are, in this respect, in the same position as the elder son in the parable of the Prodigal, who was told, in answer to his complaints, that all that his father had was his (Luke 15:31).

Matthew 20:10-12. When the first came, they supposed that they should have received more — The first, here seems to mean the Jews, who always supposed that they should, in every thing, be preferred before the Gentiles, and were provoked to jealousy by the admission of the Gentiles into the gospel church, and to the free enjoyment of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, which they considered as being confined to their nation. As the elder brother, in the parable of the prodigal, repined at the reception of the younger brother, and complained of his father’s generosity to him; so these labourers first called in, found fault with their master, not because they had not enough, but because others were made equal to them. Thou, say they, hast made them equal to us — So indeed St. Peter says, Acts 15:9, God hath put no difference between us (Jews) and them, (Gentiles,)

purifying their hearts by faith. And not only are believing Gentiles admitted to equal privileges with believing Jews in the Christian Church on earth, but those who become equally holy here, whenever they were called, will be equally happy hereafter. Who have borne the burden, &c. — Who have long toiled under the grievous yoke of the ceremonial law, obeyed its numerous precepts, and performed the various difficult duties and services required by it: fifty expressed by bearing the burden and heat of the day.

20:1-16 The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows, 1. That God is debtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness. 3. That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel. Come, come from this market-place. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell, but he that will go to heaven, must be diligent. The Roman penny was sevenpence halfpenny in our money, wages then enough for the day's support. This does not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it signifies that there is a reward set before us, yet let none, upon this presumption, put off repentance till they are old. Some were sent into the vineyard at the eleventh hour; but nobody had hired them before. The Gentiles came in at the eleventh hour; the gospel had not been before preached to them. Those that have had gospel offers made them at the third or sixth hour, and have refused them, will not have to say at the eleventh hour, as these had, No man has hired us. Therefore, not to discourage any, but to awaken all, be it remembered, that now is the accepted time. The riches of Divine grace are loudly murmured at, among proud Pharisees and nominal Christians. There is great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much of the tokens of God's favour; and that we do too much, and others too little in the work of God. But if God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us. Carnal worldlings agree with God for their penny in this world; and choose their portion in this life. Obedient believers agree with God for their penny in the other world, and must remember they have so agreed. Didst not thou agree to take up with heaven as thy portion, thy all; wilt thou seek for happiness in the creature? God punishes none more than they deserve, and recompenses every service done for him; he therefore does no wrong to any, by showing extraordinary grace to some. See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neighbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.They supposed that they should have received more - They had worked longer - they had been in the heat; they supposed that it was his intention to pay them, not according to contract, but according to the time of the labor. 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. See Poole on "Matthew 20:16".

But when the first came,.... Who were early hired into the vineyard; and design either the first saints that were in the world; or the Jews that first believed in Christ, either really or nominally; or such, who were called by grace in their early days:

they supposed, or "hoped", as the Syriac version renders it,

that they should have received more; than a penny, a greater reward: not that they could expect it on the foot of their agreement, or on account of their work; but because they observed, that they that came last into the vineyard, had as much as they agreed for; and therefore hoped, from the goodness of their Lord to them, that they should receive more:

and they likewise received every man a penny; the selfsame privileges of the Gospel, and a title to the selfsame reward of free grace, the selfsame glory and happiness.

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
Matthew 20:10. οἷ πρῶτοι: the intermediates passed over, as non-essential to the didactic purpose, we arrive at the first, the men hired on a regular bargain in the morning.—ἐνόμισαν: they had noticed the paying of the last first, and had curiously watched to see or hear what they got, and they come with great expectations: twelve hours’ work, therefore twelve times the sum given to the one-hour men.—καὶ αὐτοί: surprising! only a penny! What a strange, eccentric master! He had seen expectation in their faces, and anticipated with amusement their chagrin. The money was paid by the overseer, but he was standing by enjoying the scene.

Matthew 20:10. Οἱ πρῶτοι, the first) The intermediate labourers did not murmur; for they saw themselves also made equal to the first. He who is liable to be envied himself, is less likely to envy others.—πλείονα, more) sc. denarii, i.e. twelve denarii for twelve hours.

Verse 10. - They supposed that they should have received more. The text varies between πλεῖον (plus, Vulgate) and πλείονα, the former implying "a greater sum" than the stated hire, the latter hinting indefinitely at "more" things, more in number. Seeing the liberal payment given to the others, they expected some increase in the wages offered to themselves, or an additional remuneration of some kind. Matthew 20:10Every man a penny (τὸ ἀνὰ δηνάριον)

Lit., the sum amounting in each case to a penny; or a penny apiece. Ἀνά is distributive. Wyc., each one by himself a penny.

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