Proper 20 – Year A

Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45; (or Jonah 3:10-4:11; Psalm 145:1-8); Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” – Socrates

Some weeks ago we spoke about distributive justice, everyone having enough. In today’s Gospel the workers who put in a full day wanted more than enough pay, more than agreed upon. Why do any of us want so much? Most folks in first world countries accumulate and hoard much more stuff than we need, and so much of it sits unused. We see others with many possessions and they seem happy. So in imitation we amass goods, and we are still not happy. Perhaps we are not envious of our neighbor’s money and expensive toys, but of their supposed happiness. Either way it is looking in the wrong place. Envy is a cancer, an ulcer and will eat us up. It is like we have an evil sick eye (see Greek below) that is myopic and can’t see a larger telescopic view. Envy makes it hard for us to appreciate the blessings of God that we already have. The bottom line message of this parable is that God is generous to all of us, differently to each. Let us not lose sight of our unique blessings because we are enviously counting the blessings of others.


Matthew 20:15 has one of the most interesting idiomatic expressions in the New Testament. Most translations say something like “Are you envious because I am generous?” However, the literal Greek says “Is your eye evil because I am good?”


An evil eye lusts,

spying a neighbor’s heaped loot.

Why when so God blessed?