Once upon a time, there was a wealthy old man who owned a thousand acres of land. The old man was unable to look after all that land by himself, so he went out into the world and hired employees.
He was a very generous man, and he knew exactly how he would gather workers. He stood on the street corner and called out at the top of his lungs: “Anyone who works my land today will be paid $1000.”
Immediately, some young, handsome, able-bodied men; forgot their agendas and went to work on the old man’s land, but the old man was not satisfied with the number of men who came to work for him. He wanted to be generous with many more, poor, lost souls, so he walked up and down the streets calling out: “Anyone who works my land today will be paid $1000.”
Over the next few hours, some scruffier, middle aged men nodded their heads and went to work on the old man’s land. Several women also stepped through the gates, giggling about whether or not they would be allowed to work since they did not consider themselves as physically capable as the men – but the old man didn’t bat an eyelid.
Halfway through the day, some prostitutes who were also roaming the streets; saw that women were allowed to enter the old man’s property, and decided they would follow suit to make some quick cash.
Throughout the afternoon, people of all ages, sizes, ethics and capabilities entered the old man’s property and went to work: lawyers, firemen, mothers, teachers, retail workers, tax agents, accountants, homeless people, dancers, singers, artists and actors. There were even some hung over alcoholics who woke up at 4:00pm and stumbled through the gates of the old man’s property after hearing his call: “Anyone who works my land today will be paid $1000.”
The old man kept gathering workers until 4:50pm, by which time the streets were empty and his land was abundantly full. At 5:00pm a bell rang and all the workers lined up at the gate to receive their pay. The funny thing was that the workers who came in last were the closest to the gate, so they received their pay first. Most of them could hardly believe their eyes when they received their $1000, for doing 10, 15 or 20 minutes of work.
Whispers floated down the long line of workers about how the generous and wealthy old man was paying lazy alcoholics $1000, and they began to estimate how much they would be paid – maybe up to ten times more since they worked ten times longer than some of the others.
Many of the workers stood in line for an hour, waiting for their pay, and when it came time for the last, able bodied young man to receive the money due him, his eyes were gleaming green with greed. When the old man handed him $1000 in cash, the young man’s eyes turned sour and he said:
“I have been working here since nine o’clock this morning in the hot sun – and I’m telling you: I worked harder than any other man here! I mowed your lawns; pruned your trees – I have blisters the size of grapes from pulling up so many weeds, and I walked your entire property line to repair every hole in your fence! Not to mention standing in line for an hour, waiting for my pay! How dare you pay that sloth alcoholic who came through your gates and started singing some drunken bar tune about swagmen and billabongs, the same amount as you paid me! I deserve better than that!”
The old man looked the young man calmly in the eyes and did not raise his voice. “How dare you claim that I am being unfair? You agreed to work today for $1000. Take your pay and go! If I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you – I have every right to do whatever I want with my own money! Or are you jealous because I am too generous for you to handle?”
So the LAST
Will be FIRST
In the Kingdom of Heaven
And the FIRST
Will be EQUAL
To the LAST
Matthew 20:1-16; 21:28-32– with writer’s liberty
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