Matthew 20

2 A denarius was the common worker's wage for a day's labor. Vineyard labor was seasonal and depended on the size of the harvest. These laborers were undoubtedly very happy to have someone hire them. In other places and other times, these workers may not have been able to find the work they needed to feed their families with.
3 The landowner also went out at 9 A.M., noon, 3 P.M., and 5 P.M. to hire more laborers. He did not promise them a full day's wage, but he did promise to pay them.
6 It was common to recruit workers in city squares and shopping districts. These workers may have been traveling from district to district looking for work. If they had been in the same place all day, either the landowner had not seen them before, or he had found that he needed more laborers as the day went on.
8 The steward had "control" of the money, but he could only pay out what the landowner told him.
9 Imagine their joy when those who had worked for a single hour were paid a full day's wages.
12 Those at the end of the pay line saw that those who had worked only an hour had received a full day's wage. Their expectations went up, thinking that the landowner would pay them in proportion to the amount of labor they had put in. Perhaps they reasoned that if a person who worked one hour received a denarius then those who worked eleven hours should receive eleven denarii.

However, their expectations were not met. Instead, they received a denarius just as they had been promised. In their own minds, they felt it was unfair that those who had worked so little had received the same wage as those who had worked longer and under harsher conditions.

13 If the men had not known the wages of the "lesser" laborers, then they would have been happy with their wages. Thus, the "unfairness" was only in their minds and was based on unfounded expectations.
15 It was the landowner's right to pay whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted for the labor that they did. The landowner exceeded the expectations of those who worked less, and it was his prerogative to do so. The long-hour labors became jealous and wanted more than they were entitled to. Their complaint had no basis because the landowner paid them exactly what they had agreed to.
16 Jesus promised that all people who believe in Him will have eternal life with Him and share in God's unending goodness and love. What more could we ask for? Some people become Christians at a very young age. Others may not become Christians until they are near death. In each case, the wage is the same. Some live as Christians under oppression and persecution -- even to the point of being executed for their faith. Others live in relative comfort with little conflict. Yet, the wage is the same.

When we stand before God to receive our reward as believers, He may line us up in order of our labor status. Those who believed for the shortest time and had the fewest burdens may receive their rewards first. Their rewards will be eternal life. As God proceeds down the line, the wage will be the same for all. The joy of it all will be this: When God reaches the last person -- the one who served the longest under the harshest, unimaginable conditions -- he or she will not be jealous of those who received the same wage. Instead, that person will be overjoyed at the rich generosity of God and humbled by the recognition of his or her own unworthiness. Those at the beginning of the line will also rejoice, recognizing God's boundless generosity to them who, by comparison, are even less worthy than those at the end of the line are. There will be no place for jealousy in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, there is no room for jealousy among those in God's Kingdom while they live on earth. God has already agreed to "pay" us far beyond what we deserve. Our joy and wonder can only be increased when we see God's generosity to all who will believe in Jesus.

18 Jesus tells His disciples very plainly that He is about to be killed, but that He would then rise from the dead. Other similar passages show that the disciples cannot comprehend this.
21 The disciples often quarreled about which of them would be considered greatest in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had already told them that humbleness is the key to greatness in the Kingdom (Mat 18:1-4). He had also promised them thrones and the authority to judge Israel (Mat 19:28). Yet, the mother of James and John wants more for her sons. In a bold move, she requests that her sons be given the highest places of honor in the Kingdom. Mark 10:37 indicates that they asked this for themselves. Either they repeated their mother's request or her speaking on their behalf was as good they saying it themselves.
22 Jesus indicates that the highest places of honor are obtained through hardship and death.
23 Almost all the disciples would suffer hardship and cruel deaths. Yet, even then they would not obtain those seats unless the Father granted it. The hint seems to be that none of them will attain those special seats. It might even be said that those who will attain those seats would not be seeking them.
24 Of course, when the other disciples heard about this, they started making fun of this arrogant request. Truth be known, they were probably jealous that they did not ask first, since they all seemed to want notoriety.
25 The greatest people in the secular world are usually the ones that rule over the greatest number of people. These positions are often accompanied with the best houses, clothes, food, and special honors. They can raise taxes at will, dispense their own judgement, and command armies.
26 Greatness in the Christian community is not measured by leadership skills, but by willing and glad service.
27 Society puts the master at the top and the slave on the bottom. God has the opposite view, which was confusing to the disciples, and which we still do not seem to understand today.
28 Jesus uses Himself as an example. He came to give everything He had to ransom the souls of men. Because He gave the ultimate sacrifice, He is given the ultimate authority in heaven (Phil 2:8-11).