1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’
7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’
8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’
9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.
11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,
12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’
13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’
16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
Matthew 19:30 and 20:16 bookend the parable with the principle that the last will be first and first last. The parable itself explains what this means — that God will reward based on His own criteria and not based on those we think He should use.
evil (v.15) — envious
Christ now proceeded to teach, through a parable, the basis on which rewards will be apportioned in the millennial kingdom.
We would have to acknowledge that he [the householder] was both fair and gracious. He had a right to do what he had so graciously done. By this parable the Lord desired those who had asked what they would receive to learn the lesson that they were to work in the vineyard and leave their reward to Him. He would be just and fair, and He could also be counted on to be gracious. He had a right to do as He chose in dispensing the rewards. Their responsibility was to labor faithfully for Him, not with a view to the reward, but to please the One who had sent them to labor in the vineyard. They were also to trust the graciousness of the One who had commissioned them to be fair in the reward. — Pentecost, page 362.