For the kingdom of heaven is like to a man that is an householder…
This parable is closely connected with our Lord's remarks in describing the rewards of the kingdom, and it may have been intended to convey a mild rebuke, or at least a gentle warning, to St. Peter, who had asked," What then shall we have?" The apostles are to receive great rewards. But those who, like St. Peter, were called first, are not to assume that they will have any more than those who came in later.
I. CHRIST SEEKS LABOURERS FOR HIS VINEYARD. There is work to be done in winning the world for Christ, and in training the Church that its fruit may be brought forth in abundance. For this work our Lord requires labourers. His servants are not to be satisfied with receiving his grace. That grace is given for the express purpose of its being used in his service. Christ calls us that we may serve him.
II. CHRIST OFFERS A FAIR REWARD FOR LABOUR. The so called "penny" was evidently the regular wages of the ordinary day labourer. Although Christ might exact service on royal authority, he does not put forth this authority. He accepts each laborer on the man's free consent, and he offers him all that he could ask for. We talk of the sacrifice and toils of a Christian life. We should be honest to reckon up its gains on the other side.
III. CHRIST HIRES LABORERS AT THE VARIOUS HOURS. The Church did not start fully equipped. By degrees the requisite forces have been drawn into the service of the kingdom. Those late hired may represent various classes.
1. The later called apostles. St. Peter will not have pre-eminence because he was called earlier than St. Jude. When St. Paul came his case would be obviously met here. And yet the parallel is not exact, because the later apostles did not have a shorter season of work.
2. The Gentiles. These were called later than the Jews; but they were not assigned an inferior place in the kingdom.
3. The heathen. Even today; at the eleventh hour, some nations are being called in.
4. The aged. One who did not receive the gospel in youth will not necessarily be lower than one who had the privilege of knowing it in his early days.
IV. CHRIST REWARDS IN AN UNEXPECTED MANNER. Here we have a description of an equality of payment. Elsewhere there is an idea of diversity, e.g. Luke 19:24-26. Each representation has its own lesson. In the case before us we learn that the final division may not be at all according to our expectation. The obscure may be on a level with the eminent - the Gentiles with the Jews, the new mission Churches of India and China with the old Christian Churches of Europe.
V. CHRIST HAS A RIGHT TO DEAL GENEROUSLY AFTER HE HAS ACTED JUSTLY. The payment looked unfair. But no one could complain, because every one had what he had agreed to take, and because no one had less than fair wages. Beyond this the householder was free to be as generous as he pleased in the disposal of his own property. Still, one can quite understand the dissatistaction. People are hurt when generosity does not seem to be equal and fair. It should be noted, however, that the later comers had excused themselves on the plea that no man had hired them. Possibly they were as willing to work all day as those who had done so. Now, Christ judges by the heart and the intentions. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.