Parable of the Equal Wage Laborers Revisited
By S M Chen, posted by Debbonnaire Kovacs, Feb 4, 2016
Based on Matt. 20:16 (KJV) and this story from the Money & Career Cheatsheet.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a youthful man of means named Daniel, master of a company called Gravity Payments.
In his diligent reading, he had come upon a study which put forth the notion that the optimal wages for a laborer to be happy was about seventy thousand dollars per year. Being convinced of its verity, he pondered what, if anything, he could do. He had learnt how hard some of his workers labored to make ends come together. He crunched numbers (for indeed, that was his business). For a fortnight, as he cogitated, he was smitten by ‘night terrors.’
When those terrors, like the tide, ebbed, he made a decision: he would cut his own salary by ninety percent and pay all who worked for him at least seventy thousand.
Of that decision, he saith, ‘That was the happiest I’ve ever felt. For me, it was the best money I’ve ever spent.’
His was not a particularly small business; he had six score employees.
When he announced his decision in a group meeting, he was met by stunned silence. Some workers regarded each other, jaw muscles loosened, and one asked Daniel to repeat himself.
Once they realized that this was not a day of April for Fools, the laborers clapped, cheered, and gave each other fives of the high kind.
One worker said, ‘Now I canst have the teeth of my child straightened; they have been crooked for years.’
A second said, ‘I canst buy a larger dwelling. Mine hath become too small for our growing family.’
And a third said, ‘I did not have the wherewithal to pay for the education of my children. Now I doth.’
A fourth said, ‘I hath not laid eyes on my grandparents lo these many years; for they live in a far country. Now I will arise and go to them before they rest with their ancestors. Joy will fill our hearts.’
All seemed content. Gratitude flowed as the river Jordan to the sea.
And, while the company lost a few clients, it regained them and more. It had to hire more laborers, the better to process payments.
But the mystery of iniquity, which once arose in a place of light in another, earlier time, lurked in darkness in the heart of man.
This thing displeased two of those who labored in the upper levels of the company. They murmured against the master, saying, ‘Wherefore hath the master raised the pay of those who may not contribute to the success of the company as much as we? For we be skilled, but they be unskilled.’
The master heard of it and tried to reason with them, saying, ‘Hath I done thee wrong? Doth I not pay thee what thou wast promised?’
For, although he had raised the wages of many laborers, he did not lower the wages of any but himself.
Whereupon the two argued, ‘We think it unfair, what thou hast done.’
He answered unto them, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do as I wilt? Because I do what I think to be good, dost that make thee evil? Doth not charity begin at home?’
But they would not hearken, and, as one, they departed from the presence of the master and the company that had, forsooth, done them no wrong.
For they were sore displeased, and would only be happy if some of the other laborers were worse off than they.
This thing smacketh of the belief that life is a zero-sum, not a win-win game. Not all canst win; there must needs be some losers (‘and why should it be us?’)
They from Germany hath always been clever at conjuring compound words of pith. The spirit of the two who departed Gravity Payments for reasons of discontent seemeth to come from Schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. Or, alternatively, the flip side of the pfennig, which saith that one canst not be pleased at the good fortune of others.
This reaction hath also been described as crab mentality, first coined by writer Ninotchka Rosca and familiar in the Philippines. Individually, crabs in a pot might easily escape, but instead, they claw at each other in a futile ‘king of the hill’ frenzy, which precludes any escaping. All perish.
In Terry Pratchett’s novel, ‘Unseen Academicals,’ a fishmonger doth not even bother keeping a lid on a crab bucket, there being no need. The protagonist comes to realize that ‘the worst of it is, the crab that mostly keeps you down is you.’
Perhaps the most memorable utterance of the comic strip character ‘Pogo,’ created by cartoonist Walt Kelly, was: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Since the Fall, it hath ever been so.
Is it not true that, at the end of the day, all are recompensed according to what they have been promised? None is cheated.
Sweet wine cometh not from sour grapes.