Generosity versus fairness (Mt 20:13-20:15)

“But the landowner replied

To one of them.

‘Friend!

I am doing you no wrong!

Did you not agree

With me

For a denarius?

Take what belongs to you!

Go!

I choose to give

To this last

The same

As I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do

What I choose

With what belongs to me?

Or are you envious

Because I am generous?’”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς ἑνὶ αὐτῶν εἶπεν Ἑταῖρε, οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε· οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι;

ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε· θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί·

οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς; ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι;

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, as Jesus concluded this parable.  The landowner replied to one of them (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς ἑνὶ αὐτῶν) with a sarcastic greeting of companion or friend (εἶπεν Ἑταῖρε).  He had done nothing wrong to them (οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε).  They had agreed to the one denarius pay for a day’s work (οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι).  They should just take their money and go (ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε).  If the landowner was generous that was not the problem of this day laborer.  He could give to the last hired what he gave to the first hired (θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί).  Was he not allowed (οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι) to do whatever he wanted to do with his own belongings (ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς).  Were they envious with an evil eye (ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν) because he was generous (ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι)?  In fact, they did not mind generosity.  They just wanted to know why none of that generosity came their way.  That is the problem with generosity.  The person who worked hard for a fair payment sometimes resents the generosity towards those who did not do as much work.  Why was the hard worker for the whole day not compensated more generously than the one-hour worker?  There are always two sides to every story.

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The first laborers hired (Mt 20:2-20:2)

“He agreed

With the laborers

For the usual daily wage.

He sent them

Into his vineyard.”

 

συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew.  Jesus continued with his parable.  This land owner hired the first group of day laborers.  They came to a mutual understanding.  This land owner agreed and the day laborers also agreed to accept one denarius as payment for that day, the usual or common wage for a day’s work (συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν).  This Roman silver coin was worth about $.15 USA.  They would work all day for about 15 cents.  Then he sent them into his vineyard to pick the grapes (ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ).  So far, so good, nothing unusual here.  A land owner and some workers agreed on a day’s pay that was not extravagant, without any middle man.