(Jesus said), “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’”
It was Alan Tucker’s lucky day– the luckiest day he could have ever imagined. Actually, he had imagined such a lucky day many times. Every time he bought a lottery ticket, he imagined to himself that this time he might be the big winner. Each week, Alan quietly bought a few tickets, eagerly awaited the winning numbers, carefully checked and rechecked each of his losing tickets, and then threw the worthless pieces of paper away.
But this time, there was one ticket he did not throw away. It was the winner, the big winner of one of the largest jackpots ever. The next day, Alan heard on the news that across the whole nation, there was only one winner. He checked his numbers one more time, and it was him. It was all his– 643 million dollars— and even after taxes, that would be a lot of money.
Alan was a good man with a big heart. In all those years of buying lottery tickets and imagining himself a wealthy man, he always thought about how much fun it would be to help other people. Sure, he would first quit his job, build a nice house, and do some traveling. But he also looked forward to helping other people; not only his family and friends, but also other people he heard about. He wasn’t married and there was no way he could spend all that money on himself, so he would use much of it to help those in need. He had recently heard about a family in town whose son had been paralyzed in a bad accident, and they were trying to raise money for a new van for his wheelchair. They had already had some fundraisers, and were receiving a few hundred bucks here and there. But they needed $45,000. Alan hardly knew these people, but he felt sorry for them, and knew that now he would be able to help them. As soon as he got the money in his account, he would go over and write them the check. He was just as excited about that as he was about getting his own brand new vehicle.
Then Alan made a big mistake. It was at the news conference when he was given his check and interviewed by the media. “What are you going to do with all that money?’” they asked, as they always do.
“Well,” said Alan, “I’ve already given my two week notice at work. Then I have some plans for myself; but I’d also like to use the money to help people. I know some people that are having a rough time, and now I can do more than just feel sorry for them.”
When Alan got home after a big meal at the best restaurant in town, the phone was ringing. He ran to answer it, and sure enough, it was one of his friends from work. “Hey Al, this is Mick. Congratulations on your good luck. We’re going to miss you at work. But hey, that’s great how you said in the interview that you wanted to help out all your friends. Well, you know how much I have been wanting a new boat. So I know I can count on you, right? You are a great guy Al. We’ll be in touch. Bye.”
Alan couldn’t believe it. That wasn’t what he had in mind when he talked about helping people. Mick was doing all right, and already had a pretty nice boat. Alan looked down and saw that he had seventeen messages on his answering machine. As he listened through all seventeen, he was shocked to find they were all like Mick. They all wanted something, and none of them needed the kind of help Alan had in mind. At the news conference he was thinking about helping out people like his Aunt Alice, who lived on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the medicine she needed. Or his sister’s family: she and her husband had both just lost their jobs and were struggling. Or that family that needed the van. But all the messages, some from people he hardly knew, were asking for help with things like boats and snowmobiles and new cars, along with four that needed help with credit card troubles they had foolishly gotten themselves into.
Alan was overwhelmed, but he was an easy-going guy. After he thought about it for a few days, he realized that a million dollars is probably all it would take to make everyone happy, and what was a million dollars to him now? So he started writing out the checks to everyone who had asked. After two weeks he had helped out 38 people and it only cost him two million dollars. And it did make him happy to see how he could so easily make other people happy.
But then the real trouble started. Some of the people he had helped started calling him back, and they were disappointed, even angry. A typical call went like this: “Hey Al, thanks for the paying off my credit card debt and all that, but I just ran into Mick and he said you bought him a new boat. Who’s Mick to you? You only met him last year at work, but we’ve been friends since high school. Yes, I know I was $11,000 in debt, but that boat must have cost twice that much. I know it’s your money, and I’m not going to beg. But I hope you think about all those times I helped you out.” A bewildered Alan would then reply something like, “Gee, I guess I never stopped to figure out a system of who would get how much; maybe I should have. But I don’t even know how I would do that. I’ve just been saying yes, but now I guess I’ll have to think about it. I didn’t mean to offend you. You’re right, we have been good friends.”
And that’s how it went for Al from then on. Phone call after phone call, and everyone knew of someone who for some reason, deserved less but received more. Alan, who just wanted to be a good guy and generous to everyone, was accused by almost everyone of being unfair, and not as good a friend as they thought. Most people were a little bit thankful, but also hurt and disappointed, and some were even downright mad. (continued…)