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workersA business owner named Ray, looking for help with a project at his business, went to the local unemployment office to hire a worker.

When he arrived at the office he found two men, Bill and Sam waiting for work. Ray explained his project, what he was willing to pay, and the requirements of the job. In separate interviews, each man explained his respective job qualifications and experience, and both men seemed equally qualified for the job.

The first man, Bill, upon hearing the requirements, said that he had conflicts in his schedule that might interfere with Ray’s project. He said he would like the job, but only with the understanding that other jobs might conflict or even cause him to have to leave the job.

The second man, Sam, said that he liked the idea of the project, had no scheduling conflicts, and that he would be happy to take the job. He agreed that the wage was fair and promised to work until the completion of the job.

Ray offered Sam the job, and, smiling, Sam said, “I’ll see you next Monday.”

Ray liked the fact that Sam had no time or availability conflicts. Though the first laborer, Bill, seemed like an able and pleasant person, Ray thought that Sam would be the best option of the two workers.  By hiring Sam, Ray was gambling on Sam’s honesty and dependability.

The first day of work arrived, and Sam showed up as promised. He was a good worker and did nice work. “Good hire,” Ray thought to himself.

After working a few days, Sam told Ray that he would be absent the next day; he gave no explanation and didn’t show up. Ray only accomplished a small portion of what he planned for that day. His project suffered, and Sam’s absence caused some collateral difficulties. It perplexed Ray that Sam was so cavalier about the problems skipping work caused.

A few days later, Sam skipped work again.  Ray became suspicious about his new worker  and he worried that Sam would cause more problems. He regretted hiring Sam instead of Bill.

After a sleepless night Ray called Sam into his office. “You have not kept your agreement with me,” he said. “You told me that the conditions of the job were satisfactory and that you would help me complete it. Your unexplained absence and indifference about the quality of your work has caused me to lose respect for you. Pick up your check at the front desk and don’t come back.”

After that, Ray called Bill and offered him the job. Ray prized Bill’s honesty over possible work conflicts and believed that Bill’s work would be equal to his truth.

Commentary:

I have been inspired by Peter Rollin’s work with parables in “The Orthodox Heretic,” and I decided to make an attempt at creating a parable myself.

In the parable two workers show up for job interviews. Both say they can do the job, but one honestly discloses that he has some schedule conflicts during the duration of the job. The other laborer just says that he can do the job.

The man looking for workers assumes that he can trust both workers equally and hires on that basis. But he soon learns that one of the workers wasn’t completely honest about his commitment to the job.

The biblical foundation for this parable is found in Psalm 15:4 where a blessing is pronounced on the person who keeps a pledge even though it may hurt him/her to do so.  This idea is very counter-cultural in a world where we are taught that breaking a pledge is always an option.

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