555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

272. What Is the Parable of the Laborers Intended to Teach? Matt. 20:1-6.

There has, probably, been more difference in explaining this parable than any other. To us it appears mat the incidents of it are not intended as laying down a business principle, but as a commentary of the events in the preceding chapter. Peter had asked, "What shall we have, therefore?" showing a bargaining spirit. Christ shows him by this parable that, not they who stipulate for reward, but they who trust in God, leaving their reward for him to fix are treated best. That was a prominent characteristic of Christ. He craved personal trust and personal faith in himself. Where does the injustice of the householder come in ? He kept his agreement with the early laborers, who had stipulated for a penny a day. They had the amount they had demanded and had no grievance. The householder chose to deal more liberally with the others, who had left their remuneration to him, but that was in no sense a wrong to the early laborers. If an employer knows something about one of his employees—perhaps that he has been sick, or that he has a large family—and chooses to give him a double wage, is he bound to go all round his factory and double the wages of every man in his employ? It is the hireling spirit, the spirit of the man who bargains, who resents the kindness done to another as a wrong to himself, that Christ reproves here. He condemns it, as he condemned the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who resented the feast to the prodigal and reminded the father of his own claims. Many of the first (not all) shall be last because of the spirit in which they have performed their work.