And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
Van Lennep describes the Eastern customs to which our Lord alludes in this parable. "During the whole season when vineyards may be dug, the common workmen go very early in the morning to the sook, or marketplace of the village or city, where comestibles are sold. While 'waiting to be hired,' they take their morning cup of coffee, and eat a morsel of bread. The owners of vineyards come to the place and engage the number of labourers they need. These immediately go to the vineyard, and work there until a little while before the sun sets, which, according to Oriental time, is twelve o'clock, so that the 'eleventh hour' means one hour before sunset. We have often seen men standing in the marketplace through the entire day without finding employment, and have repeatedly engaged them ourselves at noon for half a day's job, and later for one or two hours' work in our garden. In such a case the price has to be particularly bargained for, but it is more often left to the generosity of the employer to give what bakshish he feels disposed." There is now a very grave danger, of which we need to be on our guard. Men are talking as if our Lord made himself an authority on social questions. The truth is, that he distinctly refused to bear any relation to social, political, and legal disputes. He revealed unknown or hidden truths to men; he resettled the great principles of morals; he quickened men with a new and Divine life; but he refused to guide in detail the applications of the principles he taught. In this parable, which seems to deal with the questions of capital and labour, the thing our Lord teaches is that every man is a free man, but if, voluntarily, he enters into engagements, he must loyally keep his engagements.
I. THE MAN WHO HAS WORK TO OFFER MUST KEEP HIS ENGAGEMENTS. Religion does not need to come in and say that he who wants work done must offer fair terms for the doing of it. Common humanity and honesty demand that. No man has any right to "go beyond," "take advantage of," or "defraud" his neighbour in anything.
II. THE MAN WHO HAS SKILL TO DO THE WORK MUST KEEP HIS ENGAGEMENTS. If he agrees for a penny a day, nothing can happen to make that unfair. He may make a new bargain tomorrow, but he must carry through his bargain today. Strikes are very often sinful repudiations of agreements. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.