Friday Minute: Class warfare and the parable of the laborers

Published: Friday, Feb. 3 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

While "class warfare" means different things to different people, anything that pits one group against another breeds envy and jealousy. In the Parable of the Laborers, the Savior frees us from the degradation of jealousy by elevating the worth of souls (Matthew 20:1-16).

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While "class warfare" means different things to different people, anything that pits one group against another breeds envy and jealousy. In the Parable of the Laborers, the Savior frees us from the degradation of jealousy by elevating the worth of souls (Matthew 20:1-16).

The modern-day laborer

Imagine you are out of work and forced to stand at a local shopping mall seeking day-wages. You arrive at 6 a.m. along with several others looking for employment. A fancy pickup truck pulls up and out steps the head wrangler for a wealthy ranch owner. He tells your group that his boss is paying $15 a day for hard labor pruning and dunging a large orchard on the ranch.

You are excited about the work and gladly sign the simple contract to toil until sundown at the stated wage. When you arrive at the orchard, the work is hard but satisfying because you can feed your family tonight.

The head wrangler is pleased with the pace of work but mumbles about "too many trees and not enough workers." He barks orders for his ranch hands to return to the mall and bring more day-laborers.

As you sweat under a hot sun, you see other workers joining your group at various hours throughout the work day: 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and the last group an hour before sundown. At sundown, you and the other workers line up at the pay table in reverse order of your initial start time.

To your chagrin, you see the paymaster doling out $15 cash to everyone. "Wait a minute!" you shout at the paymaster. "We worked 12 hours and some of them only worked an hour."

At this point, you notice the wealthy ranch owner and confront him: "These last guys get the same pay? My group worked our fingers raw for 12 hours. We deserve more money, or pay the others less."

In a calm voice the owner replies, "Friend, I did you no wrong. Here’s the contract you signed. You signed it willingly and I paid you all I promised. Take your wage and go." The owner leans closer to you and whispers, "I can be fair to you and charitable to them. Are you angry because I’m a good man?"

As the orchard fades in the distance on the bumpy road home, you remember the Savior’s postscript to this living parable: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16).

Our debt to God

In the wage of heaven, eager workers, first in the hour of their hire, shall be treated justly. Others, equally eager to labor, but with care for the work and not the wage, shall be treated with charity as the Master sees fit.

There is no class warfare among disciples of Jesus Christ because no one can fix his celestial reward; we are all in debt to God.

William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for QC Chandler Heights Stake. He begins service July 2012 as a mission president.

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