Matthew 20:11-15

Mat 20:11 (KJB)
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

Once the group of workers who were there all day received their pay, they had murmured or grumbled at the fact that they received the same pay as those who worked only the last hour of the day. They had focused their grumbling against the goodman of the house but they were really treating their expectations as fact and when their expectations were not met, they murmured.

Mat 20:12 (KJB)
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

A great principle arises here and that is found in 2 Corinthians 10:12. (2 Cor 10:12 KJV) For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. The first group had compared themselves with the last group using the argument that they had borne the burden and heat of the day while the last group had come in for only one hour and because of that they thought that they would be entitled to a bonus. It bothered them that the last group was equal unto the first group. The grape harvest comes at the hottest time of the year, so these workers were not embellishing the truth but they knew that this would be the working conditions when they agreed to work in the vineyard. So this would not have been a valid argument. What probably set them off was the fact that in reality, those who worked the one hour were really getting paid at a higher rate. Let us say the early crew agreed upon $1 for the day which was 12 hours. Their hourly rate would be 8.3¢ per hour while the last ones hired would be $1 per hour but it must be remembered that this is what they agreed on before they went into the vineyard.

Mat 20:13 (KJB)
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

The good man of the house then called the group spokesman, since friend is a singular word. The greeting “friend” was a common greeting when the name of the person was unknown. He now reminds them that he is faithfully fulfilling the terms of their work agreement for a penny for the full day. He then asks them that didn’t you agree with me to work for a penny? The group could not bring any legal charges against the owner because he had fulfilled the agreed upon salary.

Mat 20:14 (KJB)
Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

It seems that the owner had placed the money on a table while he was discussing with the group the situation. Well the owner finally said to them once the matter had ended to take their money and go, which is in the Imperative mood in the Greek making it a command. This householder was being very benevolent because he knew that if he was to break down the day into hourly rates, then those who worked the one hour would have made a very small amount, not enough for a day’s pay to buy food and other things.

Mat 20:15 (KJB)
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

Here we have a picture of God and His salvation plan. The land owner told these workers that he has the right and it is lawful for him to do whatever he desires with what he owns. If the owner wishes to compensate the last group the same as the first, then it is the owner’s right to do so. It is the same with God’s salvation plan. He has the right to apply salvation to any person whom He has named from the foundation of the world unto salvation, and those who are saved should not murmur against God because He saved a person whom the others think should not have been saved or the unbelievers cannot believe that a certain person had become saved. The term “evil eye” was a Jewish term which denoted an envious, self-centered and critical attitude. The first group had become permeated with evil against the owner but they have neglected the fact that what they received was their own rate which they agreed on. They were bearing false witness against the owner. Just as many bear false witness against God because they do not understand His ways so instead of accepting their circumstances, they murmur. The landowner was doing right by giving equal pay so those who worked for him would have a livable wage.