The kingdom of
heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to
hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers
for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going about the
third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle. And he
said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what
shall be just. And they went their way. And again he went out about the
sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.
But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and
he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him:
Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my
vineyard. And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to
his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from
the last even to the first. When therefore they were come, that came
about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the
first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they
also received every man a penny.
And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, Saying:
These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to
us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. But he
answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou
not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I
will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for
me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good? So shall the
last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
By St. John Chryostom
3. What is to
us the intent of this parable? For the beginning doth not harmonize
with what is said at the end, but intimates altogether the contrary.
For in the first part He shows all enjoying the same, and not some cast
out, and some brought in; yet He Himself both before the parable and
after the parable said the opposite thing. "That the first shall be
last, and the last first," that is, before the very first, those not
continuing first, but having become last. For in proof that this is His
meaning, He added, "Many are called, but few chosen," so as doubly both
to sting the one, and to soothe and urge on the other.
But the parable saith not this, but that they shall be equal to them
that are approved, and have labored much. "For thou hast made them
equal unto us," it is said, "that have borne the burden and heat of the
What then is the meaning of the parable? For it is necessary to make
this first clear, and then we shall clear up that other point. By a
vineyard He meaneth the injunctions of God and His commandments: by the
time of laboring, the present life: by laborers, them that in different
ways are called to the fulfillment of the injunctions: by early in the
morning, and about the third and ninth and eleventh hours, them who at
different ages have drawn near to God, and approved themselves.
But the question is this, whether the first having gloriously approved
themselves, and having pleased God, and having throughout the whole day
shone by their labors, are possessed by the basest feeling of vice,
jealousy and envy. For when they had seen them enjoying the same
rewards, they say, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast
made them equal unto us, that have borne the burden and heat of the
day." And in these words, when they are to receive no hurt, neither to
suffer diminution as to their own hire, they were indignant, and much
displeased at the good of others, which was proof of envy and jealousy.
And what is yet more, the good man of the house in justifying himself
with respect to them, and in making his defense to him that had said
these things, convicts him of wickedness and the basest jealousy,
saying, "Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is,
and go thy way; I will give unto the last even as unto thee. Is thine
eye evil, because I am good?"
What then is it which is to be established by these things? For in
other parables also this self-same thing may be seen. For the son who
was approved is brought in, as having felt this self-same thing, when
he saw his prodigal brother enjoying much honor, even more than
himself. For like as these enjoyed more by receiving first, so he in a
greater degree was honored by the abundance of the things given him;
and to these things he that was approved bears witness.
What then may we say? There is no one who is thus justifying himself,
or blaming others in the kingdom of Heaven; away with the thought! for
that place is pure from envy and jealousy. For if when they are here
the saints give their very lives for sinners, much more when they see
them there in the enjoyment of these things, do they rejoice and
account these to be blessings of their own. Wherefore then did He so
frame His discourse? The saying is a parable, wherefore neither is it
right to inquire curiously into all things in parables word by word,but
when we have learnt the object for which it was composed, to reap this,
and not to busy one's self about anything further.
Wherefore then was this parable thus composed? what is its object to
effect? To render more earnest them that are converted and become
better men in extreme old age, and not to allow them to suppose they
have a less portion. So it is for this cause He introduces also others
displeased at their blessings, not to represent those men as pining or
vexed, away with the thought! but to teach us that these have enjoyed
such honor, as could even have begotten envy in others. Which we also
often do, saying, "Such a one blamed me, because I counted thee worthy
of much honor," neither having been blamed, nor wishing to slander that
other, but hereby to show the greatness of the gift which this one
But wherefore can it have been that He did not hire all at once? As far
as concerned Him, He did hire all; but if all did not hearken at once,
the difference was made by the disposition of them that were called.
For this cause, some are called early in the morning, some at the third
hour, some at the sixth, some at the ninth, some at the eleventh, when
they would obey.
This Paul also declared when he said, "When it pleased Him, who
separated me from my mother's womb." When did it please Him? When he
was ready to obey. For He willed it even from the beginning, but
because he would not have yielded, then it pleased Him, when Paul also
was ready to obey. Thus also did He call the thief, although He was
able to have called him even before, but he would not have obeyed. For
if Paul at the beginning would not have obeyed, much more the thief.
And if they say, "No man hath hired us," in the first place as I said
we must not be curious about all the points in the parables; but here
neither is the good man of the house represented to say this, but they;
but he could not convict them, that he might drive them to perplexity,
but might win them over. For that He called all, as far as lay in Him,
from the first even the parable shows, saying, that "He went out early
in the morning to hire."
4. From everything then it is manifest to us, that the parable is
spoken with reference to them who from earliest youth, and those who in
old age and more tardily, lay hold on virtue; to the former, that they
may not be proud, neither reproach those called at the eleventh hour;
to the latter, that they may learn that it is possible even in a short
time to recover all.
For since He had been speaking about earnestness, and the casting away
of riches, and contempt of all one's possessions, but this needed much
vigor of mind and youthful ardor; in order to kindle in them a fire of
love, and to give vigor to their will, He shows that it is possible
even for men coming later to receive the hire of the whole day.
But He doth not say it thus, lest again He should make them proud, but
he shows that the whole is of His love to man, and because of this they
shall not fail, but shall themselves enjoy the unspeakable blessings.
And this chiefly is what it is His will to establish by this parable.
And if He adds, that, "So the last shall be first and the first last;
for many are called, but few chosen," marvel not. For not as inferring
it from the parable doth He say this, but His meaning is this, that
like as this came to pass, so shall that come to pass. For here indeed
the first did not become last, but all received the same contrary to
hope and expectation. But as this result took place contrary to hope
and contrary to expectation, and they that came before were equalled by
them that followed, so shall that also come to pass which is more than
this, and more strange, I mean, that the last should come to be even
before the first, and that the first should be after these. So that
that is one thing, and this another.
But He seems to me to say these, things, darkly hinting at the Jews,
and amongst the believers at those who at first shone forth, but
afterwards neglected virtue, and fell back; and those others again that
have risen from vice, and have shot beyond many. For we see such
changes taking place both with respect to faith and practice.
Wherefore I entreat you let us use much diligence both to stand in the
right faith, and to show forth an excellent life. For unless we add
also a life suitable to our faith, we shall suffer the extremest
And this the blessed Paul showed even from times of old, when he said,
that "They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the
same spiritual drink: "and added, that they were not saved; "for they
were overthrown in the Wilderness." And Christ declared it even in the
evangelists, when He brought in some that had cast out devils and
prophesied, and are led away to punishment. And all His parables also,
as that of the virgins, that of the net, that of the thorns, that of
the tree not bringing forth fruit, demand virtue in our works. For
concerning doctrines He discourses seldom, for neither doth the subject
need labor, but of life often or rather everywhere, for the war about
this is continual, wherefore also so is the labor.
And why do I speak of the whole code. For even a part of it overlooked
brings upon one great evils; as, for instance, almsgiving overlooked
casts into hell them that have come short in it; and yet this is not
the whole of virtue, but a part thereof. But nevertheless both the
virgins were punished for not having this, and the rich man was for
this cause tormented, and they that have not fed the hungry, are for
this condemned with the devil. Again, not to revile is a very small
part of it, nevertheless this too casts out them that have not attained
to it. "For he that saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger
of hell fire."Again, even continence itself is a part, but
nevertheless, without this no one shall see the Lord. For, "Follow
peace," it is said. "and holinesswithout which no man shall see the
Lord."And humility too in like manner is a part of virtue; but
nevertheless though any one should fulfill other good works, but have
not attained to this, he is unclean with God. And this is manifest from
the Pharisee, who though abounding with numberless good works, by this
But I have also something more than these things to say again. I mean,
that not only one of them overlooked shuts Heaven against us, but
though it be done, yet not in due perfection and abundance, it produces
the selfsame effect again. "For except your righteousness shall exceed
the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into
the kingdom of Heaven."So that though thou give alms, but not more than
they, thou shalt not enter in.
And how much did they bestow in alms? one may ask. For this very thing,
I am minded to say now, that they who do not give may be roused to
give, and they that give may not pride themselves, but may make
increase of their gifts. What then did they give? A tenth of all their
possessions, and again another tenth, and after this a third, so that
they almost gave away the third part, for three-tenths put together
make up this. And together with these, first fruits, and first born,
and other things besides, as, for instance, the offerings for sins,
those for purification, those at feasts, those in the jubilee,those by
the cancelling of debts, and the dismissals of servants. and the
lendings that were clear of usury. But if he who gave the third part of
his goods, or rather the half (for those being put together with these
are the half), if then he who is giving the half, achieves no great
thing, he who doth not bestow so much as the tenth, of what shall he be
worthy? With reason He said, "There are few that be saved."
5. Let us not, then, despise the care of our life. For if one portion
of it despised brings so great a destruction, when on every hand we are
subject to the sentence of condemnation, how shall we escape the
punishment? and what manner of penalty shall we not suffer? and what
manner of hope of salvation have we, one may ask, if each of the things
we have numbered threatens us with hell? I too say this; nevertheless,
if we give heed we may be saved, preparing the medicines of almsgiving,
and attending to our wounds.
For oil does not so strengthen a body, as benevolence at once
strengthens a soul, and makes it invincible to all and impregnable to
the devil. For wheresoever he may seize us, his hold then slips, this
oil not suffering his grasp to fix on our back.
With this oil therefore let us anoint ourselves continually. For it is
the cause of health, and a supply of light, and a source of
cheerfulness. "But such a one," thou wilt say, "hath talents of gold so
many and so many, and gives away nothing." And whal is that to thee?
For thus shalt thou appear more worthy of admiration, when in poverty
thou an more munificent than he. It was on this ground Paul marvelled
at the Macedonians, not because they gave, but because even though they
were in poverty they gave.
Look not then at these, but at the common Teacher of all, who "had not
where to lay His head."And why, you say, doth not this and that person
do so? Do not judge another, but deliver thyself from the charge
against thee. Since the punishment is greater when thou at the same
time blamest others, and thyself doest not, when judging other men,
thou art again thyself also subject to the same judgment. For if even
them who do right He permits not to judge others, much more will He not
permit offenders. Let us not therefore judge others, neither let us
look to others who are taking their ease, but unto Jesus, and from
thence let us draw our examples.
Why! have I been thy benefactor? Why! did I redeem thee, that thou
lookest to me? It is another who hath bestowed these things on thee.
Why dost thou let go thy Master, and look unto thy fellow-servant?
Heardest thou not Him saying, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in
heart?" And again, "He that would be first amongst you, let him be
servant of all:" and again, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be
ministered unto, but to minister."And after these things again, lest
taking offense at them who are remiss amongst thy fellow-servants, thou
continue in contemptuousness; to draw thee off from that, He saith, "I
have made myself an example to you, that as I have done, ye should do
also." But hast thou no teacher of virtue amongst those persons that
are with thee, neither such a one as to lead thee on to these things?
More abundant then will be the praise, the commendation greater, when
not even being supplied with teachers thou hast become one to be
For this is possible, nay very easy, if we be willing: and this they
show, who first duly performed these things, as for instance, Noah,
Abraham, Melchizedeck, Job, and all the men like them. To them it is
needful to look every day, and not unto these, whom ye never cease
emulating, and passing about their names in your assemblies. For
nothing else do I hear you saying everywhere, but such words as these;
"Such a one has bought so many acres of land; such a one is rich, he is
building." Why dost thou stare, O man, at what is without? Why dost
thou look to others? If thou art minded to look to others, look to them
that do their duty, to them that approve themselves, to them that
carefully fulfill the law, not to those that have become offenders, and
are in dishonor. For if thou look to these, thou wilt gather hence many
evil things, falling into remissness, into pride, into condemnation of
others; but if thou reckon over them that do right, thou wilt lead
thyself on unto humility, unto diligence, unto compunction, unto the
blessings that are beyond number.
Hear what the Pharisee suffered, because he let pass them that do
right, and looked to him that had offended; hear and fear.
See how David became one to be marvelled at, because he looked to his
ancestors that were noted for virtue. "For I am a stranger," saith he,
"and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." For this man, and all that
are like him, let pass them that had sinned, and thought of those who
had approved themselves.
This do thou also. For thou art not set to judge of the negligences of
which others have been guilty, nor to inquire into the sins which
others are committing; thou art required to do judgment on thyself, not
on others. "For if we judged ourselves," it is said, "we should not be
judged, but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord."But thou
hast reversed the order, of thyself requiring no account of offenses
great or small, but being strict and curious about the offenses of
Let us no more do this, but leaving off this disorderly way, let us set
up a tribunal in ourselves for the sins committed by ourselves,
becoming ourselves accusers, and judges, and executioners for our
But if it be thy will to be busy about the things of other men also,
busy thyself about their good works, not their sins, that both by the
memory of our negligences and by our emulation for the good works they
have done, and by setting before ourselves the judgment-seat from which
no prayers can deliver, wounded each day by our conscience as by a kind
of goad,we may lead ourselves on to humility, and a greater diligence,
and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards
man of our Lord Jesus Christ; with whom be to the Father, together with
the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without