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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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WAGES.1. ὀψώνιον is the technical term for a soldier’s pay, and occurs only in Luke 3:14. ‘From a root πεπ we get ἕψω, ὄψον, “cooked” meat, fish, etc., as contrasted with bread. Hence the compound ὀψώνιον (ὠνέομαι, “to buy”) = (1) provision money, ration money, or the rations in kind given to troops. (2) In a more general sense, “wages” ’ (Sanday-Headlam on Romans 6:23). In the time of Julius Caesar, a foot soldier received ⅔ of a denarius a day. This was increased by Augustus. John the Baptist bids the soldiers (probably those engaged in police duty connected with the customs) abstain from adding to their wages by extortion through violence, threats, or false accusations.

2. μισθὁς is the ordinary term for wages, and is translated indifferently throughout the Gospels as ‘wages,’ ‘reward,’ ‘hire.’ The labourers in the parable hire themselves for a denarius a day (Matthew 20:8). That was a fairly generous rate for such work (cf. Tobit 5:14). The denarius was equivalent in money value to 9½d., and in purchasing value to about 2s. (see artt. ‘Money,’ § 8, and [in Ext. Vol.] ‘Wages’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ).

The analogy of service and wages is freely used by Jesus in His teaching; but it is not so much the receipt of wages that rules the thought as the quarter whence they come. The labourer is always worthy of his hire, but what that will be depends upon whether he is serving the world or God. The Pharisee is really the world’s hireling, and receives his wages from it, viz. honour, consideration, power, wealth, and not from God, whom nominally he serves (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:18). But those persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:11), those whose religious obedience is unobtrusive and self-forgetting (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18), those who help any of God’s servants and do them a kindness for His sake (Matthew 10:41-42, Mark 9:41), those who go beyond the world’s self-regarding way, and love their enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again (Luke 6:35, Matthew 5:45-46), are servants of the unseen Father. Their wages are not counted out to them in the world’s coin; they receive the Father’s open acknowledgment and gather fruit unto life eternal (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18, John 4:36).

Jesus’ remark that the labourer is worthy of his hire, or of his meat (Luke 10:7, cf. Matthew 10:10), probably a quotation of a common proverb, is of a different order. It is an encouragement to His disciples to accept hospitality, in their missionary journeys, from those to whom they have ministered in spiritual enlightenment.

Literature.—The vols. on the Parables, esp. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching, 178; Phillips Brooks, New Starts in Life, p. 1; Griffith Jones, The Economics of Jesus (1905); Expos, i. iii. (1876) 81, 427; ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] v. (1894) 549.

Richard Glaister.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Wages'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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