Matthew 20:15
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Is it not lawful . . .?—The question is not that of one who asserts an arbitrary right; it appeals tacitly to a standard which none could question. As far as the labourer was concerned, the householder had a right to give freely of what was his own. He was responsible to God only. In the interpretation of the parable, God was Himself the Householder, and men ought to have sufficient faith in Him to accept the gifts to some which wrought no wrong to others as in harmony with absolute righteousness.

Is thine eye evil?—The “evil eye” was, as in Proverbs 28:22, that which looked with envy and ill will at the prosperity of others. In Mark 7:22, it appears among the “evil things” that come from the heart. Popularly, as the derivation of the word “envy” (from invidere) shows, such a glance was thought to carry with it a kind of magic power to injure, and was to be averted, in the superstitious belief which still lingers in the East and many parts of Europe, by charms and amulets.

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.Is thine we evil because I am good? - The Hebrews used the word evil, when applied to the eye, to denote one envious and malicious, Deuteronomy 15:9; Proverbs 23:6. The eye is called evil in such cases, because envy and malice show themselves directly in the eye. No passions are so fully expressed by the eye as these. "Does envy show itself in the eye? is thine eye so soon turned to express envy and malice because I have chosen to do good?" 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." See Poole on "Matthew 20:16". Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?.... External gifts and outward privileges, such as enjoying the word and ordinances, are God's own; and he may, as he does, bestow them on whom he will, and when and where he pleases; as he gave them to the Jews, and continued them many hundred years, when the Gentiles were utterly with them destitute of them; and as he has bestowed them in a more abundant manner for a long time on the Gentiles, whilst the Jews despise and reject them. Special grace is his own, which he gives to whom he pleases; it is by his own grace, and not the merits of men, that any are chosen, adopted, justified, pardoned, regenerated, and called; that they have faith, hope, love, repentance, or perform new obedience from a new heart, and new principles. Heaven and glory is his own, of his own preparing and giving; and both grace and glory are disposed of, and that very rightly and lawfully, according to his sovereign good will and pleasure: he chooses, adopts, justifies, pardons, regenerates, calls, and sanctifies whom he pleases; and brings what sons to glory he thinks fit, and bestows it equally upon them: and in so doing, does no wrong, or any injustice to any of his creatures; not to the fallen angels, by choosing some of their species, and confirming them in their original constitution; and by leaving them, the fallen angels, in their apostasy; nor by making provision for fallen man, and not them, nor by punishing them with everlasting destruction; nor do they ever complain of any wrong being done them: nor to non-elect men; for none of Adam's race have any right to grace or glory, and therefore no wrong is done to any of them, by withholding them from them, whereby nothing is taken from them, and given to others; and by punishing them for sin; nor to any elect men, by making others partners with them; since they are all alike by nature, unworthy of grace and glory, and deserving of wrath: what is enjoyed by any of them, is of mere grace, and not through merit; and one has not a whit the less, for what the other is possessed of; so that there is no room for envy, murmuring, and complaint:

is thine eye evil because I am good? An "evil eye", is opposed to a good eye, frequently in Jewish writings, as a "good eye" signifies beneficence and liberality; hence it is said (c).

"He that gives a gift, let him give it "with a good eye"; bountifully and generously; and he that devoteth anything, let him devote it with a "good eye",''

cheerfully and freely: so an "evil eye" intends envy and covetousness, as it does here: and the sense is, art thou envious at the good of others, and covetous and greedy to monopolize all to thyself, because I am liberal, kind, and beneficent? Men are apt to complain of God, and charge his procedures in providence and grace, with inequality and injustice; whereas he does, as he may, all things according to his sovereign will, and never contrary to justice, truth, and goodness; though he is not to be brought to man's bar, and men should submit to his sovereignty.

(c) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 65. 1. & 71. 1. & 72. 1.

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye {c} evil, because I am good?

(c) Naught, that is to say, do you envy at my goodness towards them? For by an evil eye the Hebrews mean envy, because such dispositions appear chiefly in the eyes, as above in Mt 6:23. It is set in opposition to the word single, and it is taken there for corrupt: for whereas he said before in verse 22, If thine eye be single, he adds in verse 23, but if thine eye by wicked, or corrupt, the word being the same in that place as it is here. Mt 6:22,23

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:15. οὐκ ἔξεστι: right asserted to act as he chooses in the matter.—ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς, in matters within my own discretion—a truism; the question is: what belongs to that category? Fritzsche and De Wette render: in my own affairs; Meyer: in the matter of my own property.— (W.H[112]) introduces an alternative mode of putting the case, which explains how the complainants and the master see the matter so differently, they seeing in it an injustice, he a legitimate exercise of his discretion.—πονηρός, vide on Matthew 6:22-24.—ἀγαθός, generous; doing more than justice demands. So Bengel. Cf. Romans 5:7 for the distinction between δίκαιος and ἀγαθός.

[112] Westcott and Hort.15. Is thine eye evil] The belief in the evil eye still prevails in the East. The envious or malevolent glance is thought to have an injurious effect. Here the sense is: Art thou envious because I am just?Matthew 20:15. Ὀφθαλμὸς, eye) The mind shines forth from the eyes.—ἀγαθὸς, good) He is good, who grants more than justice (see. Matthew 20:4, sc. whatsoever is right) requires. See Romans 5:7.Verse 15. - With mine own; ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς: in the case of what is mine own. These words are omitted by the Vulgate, which has, Aut (η}) non licet mihi quod volo facere? Is thine eye evil? The evil eye is here expressive of envy, as Proverbs 28:22. The Latin word invidia, Cicero informs us ('Tusc. Disp..' 3:9), "ductum est a nimis intuendo fortunam alterius." For nimis Bentley conjectures limis, "with sidelong glances." The idea is the same, envy being indicated by the look of the eye. Good; generous. Why should you view with disfavour my liberality? The master says no more; he gives no further account of his determination.
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