"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.'
The verse immediately preceding this reading says, “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” The same verse occurs at the end of the story, framing it neatly. This story then illustrates the principle in practice.
Rabbis told a story about a landowner who paid a man as much for two hours’ work as he paid others for a full day’s work. But this was because the man had done as much work in two hours as the others had done in a whole day. The story is only superficially like Jesus' parable: theirs is a story about merit, not about grace. In Jesus’ parable, the late arrivals didn’t deserve as much as the others, but by the generosity of the landowner they received as much. The landowner would know that a man could not support his family on the pay for one or two hours’ work, so he paid him a ‘family wage’. In other words, he didn’t see the workers as just ‘hands’, he saw them as full human beings.
Those who had worked all day were “envious”. An older and more literal translation had, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” They had an evil eye. When they looked they were blind to the generosity of the landowner because it was others who were benefiting by it, and not they themselves. This is how the ego sees: it is the original evil eye. When the ego prays it says, “Give me this day my daily bread, and don’t worry about the others.”
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