“Is Your Eye Evil Because I Am Good?”

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (detail) by Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich

At the end of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, all of the workers got paid. The people who had been working all day knew what to expect. They had agreed to a day’s labor for a penny. But when the people who had started far later in the day all receive a penny, they assumed they would receive far more. When their turn came and they received the agreed amount, they were offended and angry. It seemed so unfair that some people who had barely worked an hour would be paid the same as them, who had “borne the burden and heat of the day” (Matthew 20:12).

The employer responded to their complaint by acknowledging that he had been extra generous to the others, but then questioning how that affected them. “Friend, I do thee no wrong,” he said; “didst not thou agree with me for a penny?” Then, he added, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:13, 15).

Here’s how Elder Jeffrey R. Holland paraphrased the employer’s response:

My friends, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage. You were very happy to get the work, and I am very happy with the way you served. You are paid in full. Take your pay and enjoy the blessing. As for the others, surely I am free to do what I like with my own money.Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?

“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” General Conference, April 2012, italics in original

How do you feel when something good happens to someone else? Can you be happy for them, or do you immediately compare their situation with your own, wondering why you haven’t received the same privileges?

Alma asked the people of Zarahemla, “Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?” Then he cautioned them, “Such an one is not prepared [to meet God] and I would that he [or she] should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he [or she] knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless” (Alma 5:29).

Alma subsequently demonstrated for us how to deal with these kinds of feelings. After a less-than-stellar tour of the cities among his people, hoping to help them overcome their pride, but finding many of them unresponsive to his message, he encountered his friends, the sons of Mosiah, as they returned from a miraculously successful 14-year mission among their enemies, the Lamanites. He could easily have compared his experience unfavorably with theirs, but he did not. Instead, he wrote:

I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren, who have been up to the land of Nephi.

Behold, they have labored exceedingly, and have brought forth much fruit; and how great shall be their reward!

Now, when I think of the success of these my brethren my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.

Alma 29:14-16

Years earlier, when Alma’s father established the church at the waters of Mormon, he advised church members that it was their duty to empathize with one another. “Mourn with those that mourn,” he said (Mosiah 18:9), and he might have added, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice” (Romans 12:15).

Today, I will be glad for the blessings other people receive. I will resist the temptation to compare my situation with others’, and will instead find joy in their blessings and in their happiness.

2 thoughts on ““Is Your Eye Evil Because I Am Good?”

Add yours

  1. This is beautiful! I hadn’t connected the “rejoicing” with the “mourning.” Makes so much sense! I will think of this more often and focus on silencing my ego. Thank you!


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