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Matthew 20:11

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

They murmured - The Jews made the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, a pretense why they should reject that Gospel; as they fondly imagined they were, and should be, the sole objects of the Divine approbation. How they murmured because the Gentiles were made partakers of the kingdom of God; see Acts 11:1, etc., and Acts 15:1, etc. There are many similitudes of this kind among the Jews, where the principal part even of the phraseology of our Lord's parable may be found. Several of them may be seen in Schoettgen. Our Lord, however, as in all other cases, has greatly improved the language, scope, design, and point of the similitude. He was, in all cases, an eminent master of the sentences.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Murmured - Complained; found fault with.

The goodman of the house - The original here is the same word which in Matthew 20:1 is translated householder, and should have been so translated here. It is the old English way of denoting the father of a family. It expresses no moral quality.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows, 1. That God is debtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness. 3. That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel. Come, come from this market-place. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell, but he that will go to heaven, must be diligent. The Roman penny was sevenpence halfpenny in our money, wages then enough for the day's support. This does not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it signifies that there is a reward set before us, yet let none, upon this presumption, put off repentance till they are old. Some were sent into the vineyard at the eleventh hour; but nobody had hired them before. The Gentiles came in at the eleventh hour; the gospel had not been before preached to them. Those that have had gospel offers made them at the third or sixth hour, and have refused them, will not have to say at the eleventh hour, as these had, No man has hired us. Therefore, not to discourage any, but to awaken all, be it remembered, that now is the accepted time. The riches of Divine grace are loudly murmured at, among proud Pharisees and nominal Christians. There is great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much of the tokens of God's favour; and that we do too much, and others too little in the work of God. But if God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us. Carnal worldlings agree with God for their penny in this world; and choose their portion in this life. Obedient believers agree with God for their penny in the other world, and must remember they have so agreed. Didst not thou agree to take up with heaven as thy portion, thy all; wilt thou seek for happiness in the creature? God punishes none more than they deserve, and recompenses every service done for him; he therefore does no wrong to any, by showing extraordinary grace to some. See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neighbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.
Ellen G. White
Counsels on Stewardship, 339

Repeatedly the Saviour says, “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Jesus would have those who are engaged in His service, not eager for rewards, nor feel that they must receive compensation for all that they do. The Lord would have our minds run in a different channel; for He sees not as man sees. He does not judge by appearances, but estimates a man by the sincerity of his heart. CS 339.1

Those who have brought into their service the spirit of true sacrifice, of self-abasement, are the ones who will stand first at last. The laborers who were first hired, represented those who have an envious, self-righteous spirit, and claim that, for their services, preference should be given to them rather than to others. The householder said to the one who questioned his right to give more to others than to him, “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?” I have kept my part of the agreement. CS 339.2

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Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 396-404

But Peter's question, “What shall we have therefore?” had revealed a spirit that uncorrected would unfit the disciples to be messengers for Christ; for it was the spirit of a hireling. While they had been attracted by the love of Jesus, the disciples were not wholly free from Pharisaism. They still worked with the thought of meriting a reward in proportion to their labor. They cherished a spirit of self-exaltation and self-complacency, and made comparisons among themselves. When one of them failed in any particular, the others indulged feelings of superiority. COL 396.1

Lest the disciples should lose sight of the principles of the gospel, Christ related to them a parable illustrating the manner in which God deals with His servants, and the spirit in which He desires them to labor for Him. COL 396.2

“The kingdom of heaven,” He said, “is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.” It was the custom for men seeking employment to wait in the market places, and thither the employers went to find servants. The man in the parable is represented as going out at different hours to engage workmen. Those who are hired at the earliest hours agree to work for a stated sum; those hired later leave their wages to the discretion of the householder. COL 396.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 182

Those who think more of their wages than of the privilege of being honored as a servant of the Lord, who take up their work in a self-congratulatory spirit because they are to receive wages, do not bring self-denial and self-sacrifice into their work. The last men hired believed the word of the householder, “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive” (Matthew 20:7). They knew that they would receive all that they deserved, and they were placed first because they brought faith into their work. If those who had labored during the whole day had brought a loving, trusting spirit into their work, they would have continued to be first. 2SM 182.1

The Lord Jesus estimates the work done by the spirit in which it is done. At a late hour He will accept penitent sinners who come to Him in humble faith and are obedient to His commandments. 2SM 182.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 114

I was shown that as a people we are deficient. Our works are not in accordance with our faith. Our faith testifies that we are living under the proclamation of the most solemn and important message that was ever given to mortals. Yet in full view of this fact, our efforts, our zeal, our spirit of self-sacrifice, do not compare with the character of the work. We should awake from the dead, and Christ will give us life. 2T 114.1

With many of our brethren and sisters there is a strong inclination to live in Battle Creek. Families have been coming from all directions to reside there, and many more have their faces set that way. Some who have come to Battle Creek held offices in the little churches from which they moved, and their help and strength were needed there. When such arrive at Battle Creek, and meet with the numerous Sabbathkeepers there, they frequently feel that their testimonies are not needed, and their talent is therefore buried. 2T 114.2

Some choose Battle Creek because of the religious privileges it affords, yet wonder that their spirituality decreases after their sojourn there a few months. Is there not a cause? The object of many has been to advantage themselves pecuniarily—to engage in business which will yield them greater profits. Their expectations in this particular may be realized, while they have dearth of soul and become dwarfed in spiritual things. They take no special burden upon themselves because they think they would be out of place. They do not know where to take hold to labor in so large a church, and therefore become idlers in their Master's vineyard. All who pursue this course only increase the labor of those who have the burden of the work in the church. They are as so many dead weights. There are many in Battle Creek who are fast becoming withered branches. 2T 114.3

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