Equal Pay For Unequal Work

Then Jesus told his students this story — to help them guard against becoming proud of being the first to receive the good news of God’s kingdom and to encourage them to keep on sharing the good news of God’s kingdom with other people (157).

“Once there was a man who owned a vineyard.  Early one morning, about 6:00 AM, he hired some day laborers to work in his vineyard for the normal wage of a silver coin per day, and he set them to work.

early morning

“About 9:00 AM, he saw some other men in the marketplace doing nothing, so he hired them, too, & promised them a fair wage; so they also were set to work.

“Then at 12:00 noon & again at 3:00 PM he hired two other groups of workers in the same way.

“About 5:00 PM, he saw yet another group of men standing idle in the marketplace, so he asked them: ‘Why are you standing here doing nothing?’ ‘No one hired us today,’ they answered. ‘Well, then, you also go & work in my vineyard,’ he told them.

evening 2

“When evening came, the vineyard owner told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first.’

“The men who had begun to work at 5:00 PM were paid a silver coin each. So when the men who were the first to be hired came to be paid, they assumed they would be paid more; but they were also paid one silver coin each.

“As they took their pay, they complained to the vineyard owner: ‘These men worked only one hour, but we did a full day’s work in the hot sun.  Why did you pay them the same as you paid us?’


“The owner answered, ‘Listen, friends, I haven’t cheated you. You agreed to do a day’s work for one silver coin, and that’s what you’ve been paid.  If I want to pay the men who were hired last the same as I paid you, don’t I have that right?  Or are you jealous because I am generous?'”

When Jesus concluded, “Those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last,” his students began to see that this idea could be applied in different ways . . .


(157) Matthew 20:1-16