But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do you no wrong: did not you agree with me for a penny?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Friend.—The word so translated (literally, comrade, companion) always carries, with it in our Lord’s lips a tone of reproof. It is addressed to the man who had not on a wedding garment (Matthew 22:12), and to the traitor Judas (Matthew 26:50).
I do thee no wrong.—The answer of the house holder is that of one who is just where claims are urged on the ground of justice, generous where he sees that generosity is right. Had the first-called labourers shared this generosity, they would not have grudged the others the wages that they themselves received, and would have found their own reward in sympathy with their joy. This would be true even in the outer framework of the parable. It is à fortiori true when we pass to its spiritual interpretation. No disciple who had entered into his Master’s spirit would grudge the repentant thief his rest in Paradise (Luke 23:43). No consistent Christian thinks that he ought to have some special reward because he sees a death-bed repentance crowned by a peace, the foretaste of eternal life, as full and assured as his own.Matthew 20:13-15. And he answered one of them — Who spoke in the name of the rest; Friend, I do thee no wrong — It is most apparent that I do not, in any degree, injure thee or any of thy companions. Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? — Didst thou not consent to obey the gospel, to enter the vineyard of the gospel church, and work diligently therein, on condition that thou wast admitted to a share of the blessings of it here, and to eternal life hereafter? If thou hast received what thou didst agree for, thou hast no reason to cry out of wrong. Though God is a debtor to none, yet he is graciously pleased to make himself a debtor by his own promise; for the benefit of which, through Christ, believers agree with him, and he will stand to his part of the agreement. Take that thine is, and go thy way — If we were to understand this of that which is ours by debt or absolute property, it would be a dreadful word; we should be all undone, if we should be put off with that only which we could call our own. The highest creature must go away into nothing, if he must go away with that only which is his own. But understood, as it ought to be, of that which is ours by gift, the free gift of God, it teacheth us to be content with such things as we have; and, instead of repining that we have not more, to take what we have and be thankful. If God be better in any respect to others than to us, yet we have no reason to complain, while he is so much better to us than we deserve, in giving us our penny, though we are unprofitable servants. I will give unto this last — That is, last called, namely, among the heathen; even as unto thee — First called, namely, among the Jews, yea, and unto the last converted publicans and sinners, even as to those who were called long before. Observe, reader, the unchangeableness of God’s purposes in dispensing his gifts should silence our murmurings. It is not for us to gainsay what he does; and is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? — Yea, doubtless, to give either to Jew or Gentile a reward infinitely greater than he deserves. But can it be inferred from hence, that it is lawful or possible for the merciful Father of spirits to
“Consign an unborn soul to hell!
Or damn him in his mother’s womb?”
Is thine eye evil because I am good? — Art thou envious because I am gracious? Here is an evident reference to that malignant aspect which is generally the attendant of a selfish and envious temper.
and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? &c.See Poole on "Matthew 20:16".
and said, friend, I do thee no wrong; by giving all alike, the same privileges and blessings to the last, as to the first, since nothing was withheld from him. And indeed the Lord does no wrong to any, by the distinction which he makes among his creatures: he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works: he does no injury to the evil angels, by choosing the good angels, and confirming them in the estate in which they were created; when the others are reserved in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day; or by choosing fallen men, in Christ, and making provisions of grace for them, and not devils: and so there is no unrighteousness in him, nor does he do any wrong to any, when, like the potter, out of the same clay, he makes one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour; any more than when, in a providential way, he gives riches and wealth to some, and withholds them from others; or sends his Gospel, the means of grace to one, and not to another: and still less can he be thought to do wrong to the sons of men, by giving to them alike the same grace and privileges here, and the same happiness and glory hereafter; since neither have any right to what they have, or shall enjoy, and no one has the less for what is given to the other.
Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? That is, to labour in the vineyard all the day for a penny; yea, this agreement was made personally with him, not with a servant, or messenger of his; though if it had, it ought, according to the Jewish canons, to have been abode by, which run thus (b):
"A man says to his messenger, or servant, go and hire workmen for me for three pence; he goes and hires them for four pence: if the messenger says to them, your wages be upon me, he gives them four pence, and takes three pence of the master of the house; he looses one out of his own purse: if he says to them, your hire be upon the master of the house, the master of the house gives them according to the custom of the province: if there are one in the province that hired for three pence, and others that are hired for four pence, he gives them but three pence, "and the murmuring" is against the messenger; in what things? When the work is not known, but when the work is known, and it is worth four pence, the master of the house gives them four pence; but if his messenger does not say to them four pence, they do not labour and do what deserves four pence. The householder says to him, hire me for four pence, and the messenger goes and hires for three pence, though the work deserves four pence, they have but three pence; because that , "they took it upon themselves", (i.e. they agreed for so much,) and their murmuring is against the messenger.''
Thus the argument in the parable proceeds upon the agreement, which ought to be abode by.But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 20:13-15. Ἑνί] One, as representing the whole.
ἑταῖρε] Comrade, a mild way of introducing a rebuke, similar to “good friend” among ourselves. Comp. Matthew 22:12, Matthew 26:50. So also ἀγαθέ, βέλτιστε. See Herm. ad Vig. p. 722. Comp. Wetstein.
οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε] From the standpoint of justice.
δηναρίου] genitive of price. Somewhat different from the idea of Matthew 20:2.
θέλω δέ] “Summa hujus vocis potestas,” Bengel.
ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς] not to be taken in the general sense of: in my affairs (Fritzsche, de Wette), but, according to the context, to be understood in the more definite sense of: in disposing of my own property. Comp. τὸ σόν, and Plato, Legg. ii. p. 969 C.
εἰ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου, κ.τ.λ.] see critical notes. The εἰ is not interrogative, as in Matthew 12:10, Matthew 19:3 (for, according to the connection, the doubt implied in such a question would be entirely out of place), but the speaker is to be regarded as saying that, though such and such be the case, his right to do what he pleases with his own is by no means impaired, so that εἰ may be taken as almost equivalent to εἰ καί (Jacobs, Del. Epigr. p. 405; Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 212; Kühner, II. 2, p. 991): if thine eye is evil (i.e. envious, comp. Mark 7:22, and רע, Proverbs 28:22; Sir 14:10), because I (I, on my part, hence ἐγώ) am good! The mark of interrogation after ἐμοῖς is therefore to be deleted.Matthew 20:13-15. The master’s reply.13. Friend] The Greek word is used of any temporary connection, without the idea of affectionate friendship. It is used by a master to his slave; by a guest to a fellow-guest; as a general address on meeting. Cp. ch. Matthew 22:12 and Matthew 26:50, where it is a term of reproachful rebuke.Matthew 20:13. Ἑνὶ, to one) who was a sample of the rest of the murmurers. Cf. concerning one, the Gnomon on ch. Matthew 22:11.—ἑταῖρε, friend) An expression used also to those with whom we are not on friendly or intimate terms.
 “ἑταῖρε, at first sight a friendly word merely, assumes a more solemn aspect when we recollect that it is used in ch. Matthew 22:12, to the guest who had not the wedding garment; and in ch. Matthew 26:50, by our Lord to Judas” Alford in loc.—(I. B.)
Οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε, I do thee no wrong) To do wrong to GOD is bad; but it is even worse to suppose one’s self wronged by GOD: and this happens more often than is generally supposed.—V. g.Verse 13. - He answered one of them. The Lord condescended to show, not to all the labourers, but to one of them - the ringleader probably - the futility of the ground of his murmur. Christ often explains himself to his friends, while he refuses further elucidation to enemies and the hardened. Friend (ἑταῖρε). Not a term of affection, or special good will, but one of indifference, addressed to an inferior. It was the word used to Judas (Matthew 26:50) when he came to betray his Lord, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" I do thee no wrong. The labourer had really nothing to complain of in strict justice; he had received the full amount of the stipulated wages. But he very naturally felt that he had not been fairly dealt with. He would say to himself, "If one hour's work, and that in the cool of the evening, is deemed worth a penny, surely a whole day's labour, in the full heat of the sun, ought to deserve a higher remuneration." The difficulty here must be felt by every one. Nor is the master's solution perfect; it would scarcely commend itself to the dissatisfied murmurer. And doubtless it is not intended to be complete.
Representing the whole body.
Lit., companion, comrade.
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