Matthew 20:1-16 Dealing With Envy

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Dealing With Envy

Envy is cultivated in community when we look at what other people have and start comparing it with what we have.  Looking at the different hands we have all been dealt causes us to ask, “Why does the crack addict have a baby when we are infertile?”  “”Why is it so hard for us to save any money when others seem to have money to spare?”  “Why is my health giving out when others my age are doing so much better?”  “Why isn’t my spouse attentive in the way other spouses are?”

God gives to everyone as he sees fit and he is well within his rights to do so.  In community people are dealing with various issues and have various blessings.  In Christian community we must remember that we agreed to follow Jesus wherever he would lead us.  Because he leads us down a path different than our neighbour just reflects that we are different than our neighbour.  Why do we think that the perfection of our character would be better if we had the possessions or experiences that our neighbours have.  In North American Community envy comes most often regarding wealth and comfort.  By comfort I mean an ease of life.  However, the things which transform our character more quickly are trial and discomfort.  Of course, it could become a problem that we start to envy another person’s trials and discomfort, but I do not see that as a problem in the community of Christ any time soon.


  1. With whom do the workers have contact when they agree to work in the field?
  2. With whom do they have contact when they are paid?
  3. What causes envy among the workers?
  4. What does Jesus offer to those who follow him?
  5. How can you deal with things that cause you to envy the life or lifestyle of others?



About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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One Response to Matthew 20:1-16 Dealing With Envy

  1. Kelli says:

    When we were struggling to start a family, this was a huge problem for me. And it was all mixed in with my anger and grief. Where God brought me, and what I continually have to be reminded of, is that our lives on this planet are all about God and what he wants to do. And I can rejoice in how God’s blessings flow–even if they aren’t flowing directly into my own lap.

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