The Workers in the Vineyard
For the kingdom of the heavens is like a man, a householder, who went out in the morning to hire workers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the workers for a denarius1 a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And going out around the third hour, he saw others standing in the market idle; and he said to these, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatever is just, I will give you. And they departed.
Again coming out about the sixth and ninth hour, he did likewise.
And going out about the eleventh hour, he found others standing idle, and says to them, Why do you stand here all the day idle? They say to him, Because no one has hired us. He says to them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatever is just, you shall receive.
And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard says to his steward, Call the workers, and pay them the hire, beginning from the last to the first.
And when they came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they received each a denarius.
And when the first came they supposed that they should receive more, and they also received each a denarius.
And receiving, they murmured against the householder, saying, These last have done one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, who have borne the weight of the day, and the heat.
But he answering said to one of them, Fellow, I do not treat thee unjustly; didst thou not agree with me for a denarius? Take thine own and go thy way; but I will to give to this last one even as to thee. Is it not permitted for me to do what I will with what is mine? Is thine eye wicked, because I am good?
So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few chosen.
Third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours
AE 194.2. “Hour” signifies state, because all times in the Word, as a day, a week, a month, a year, an age, signify states of life; so likewise “an hour.” The reason for this may be seen in the work Heaven and Hell, n. 162–169, where Time in Heaven is treated of. But as “hour” means both time and state, where “hour” occurs in the Word, it can scarcely be known that it signifies anything except time. As in Matthew:
A householder hired laborers into his vineyard, who labored from the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, and the eleventh, and received equal reward (Matt. 20:1–16).
These “hours” mean, in the world, times, but in heaven, they mean states of life, since in heaven there are no hours, because times there are not measurable and divided into days and these into hours, as in the world. Consequently instead of these times, angels perceive the states of life of those who die as old men, men, youths, or children, and who have equally acquired for themselves spiritual life. “Laboring in the vineyard” is acquiring for oneself spiritual life by the knowledges of truth and good from the Word applied to the uses of life. The “third,” the “sixth,” and the “ninth hours” signify a like state of life, for all numbers in the Word are significative, and these numbers have a similar signification. That a “vineyard” in the Word signifies the spiritual church, and with man spiritual life, see Arcana Coelestia, n. 9139, 3220. That “three” signifies a full state, or what is complete even to the end, see n. 2788, 4495, 7715, 8347, 9825; likewise “six” and “nine.”
But “eleven” signifies a state not yet full, and yet a receptive state such as there is with well-disposed children and infants. The “twelfth hour,” to which all labored, signifies truths and goods in their fullness, n. 577, 2089, 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913.
Thinking of reward
AC 8002.8. That it is so often said by the Lord that they who do what is good shall “have their reward in heaven” (as in Matt. 5:11, 12; 6:1, 2, 16; 10:41, 42; 20:1–16; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23, 35; 14:14; John 4:36) is because before he is regenerated a man cannot but think of reward. But it is otherwise when he has been regenerated. Then he is indignant if anyone thinks that he benefits his neighbor for the sake of reward, for he feels delight and blessedness in imparting benefits, and not in recompense.
1 A very small silver coin (AR 315)
Questions and Comments
- Is the householder in this parable being fair to the workers he hires at the various times of day?
- Does it matter how long it takes on earth to acquire a spiritual life?
- How can thinking of heaven as a reward be useful?