For the kingdom of heaven is like to a man that is an householder…
1. This story is on the face of it improbable. It is unusual for an employer to give as much remuneration to those who have wrought one hour as to those who have wrought nine or twelve. The householder was a peculiar character, and had his own way of doing things, and did not care how people regarded him. He must be such an one if he is to represent God and His dealing with men. "My thoughts are not your thoughts," etc. God's kingdom is not of this world.
2. The act of the householder seems to be unjust. Some think that the late-comers did as-much work in one hour as the others in nine; others that the late-comers were paid with a brass denarius, the others with a silver one, or with a gold one; so they say one heaven for all, yet of varied glory. But if the early workers had a gold denarius they would not have complained. We have to admit the inequality of the treatment; it is explained by the spirit of the workers, of which earthly employers take no thought.
3. The difficulty of finding spiritual analogues for each of the particulars in the parable. The grumbling workers are to be taken as the impersonations of an evil principle that often exists in Christian hearts; they correspond to the elder brother in the parable. There is much of the hireling disposition even in true disciples. Work in this spirit, however great it may seem, is small in the sight of God. The "perfect" and the "chosen" labour for love. The first bargained with the householder; the last trusted to his generosity without question. To those late he was better than they expected. To the hire. ling He shows Himself a hirer; to the trustful worthy of confidence. The bargainers are filled with dissatisfaction, the confiding ones with joy. The parable teaches a change of place between the first and the last; not unusual. There will be first who shall remain first.
4. This view does not approve late coming into the vineyard. Service is not determined by duration, but by spirit, Motive gives character to work.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
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.