Yesterday I was privileged to attend a meeting in which Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke. He talked about many things but one very short idea he taught was around the parable of the laborers found in Matthew 20:1-15. I was struck by the depth of the parable and its relevance to us today.
If you remember the owner of the vineyard begins hiring laborers near the start of the day and continues hiring individuals throughout the day up until just hours before the day was over. At the end of the day he called all the laborers together and gave all the same wage, a penny. This of course upset those that had been hired early on.
To many these first few laborers seem to have a point. They worked longer and thus deserved more pay. However, as Elder Holland pointed out the first laborers agreed to "a penny a day" for their work. They were paid fairly. There was a baseline of pay. However the owner of the vineyard choose to be generous with those that came latter in the day. Then, speaking to the laborers who are upset, there is this wonderful phrase in verse 15: "is thine eye evil, because I am good?" In other words, why do we have such a problem when others are blessed?
What a great question! Why is it that we get caught up so easily in comparison? Why can't we be grateful for the work we have, for the pay we agreed to receive? Why do we have to be upset when another succeeds and is blessed with even more? Why does our "eye" become "evil" when we see others succeed?
Try this exercise. What if your boss came to you and said "good job this year, you were outstanding, I want to give you a $1,000 bonus." I bet you would feel grateful wouldn't you? You would start to think about how that money will be a blessing and what you might do with it. Now, you get up and walk over to a colleague and you discover that he to received a bonus and he is very excited as well. In his excitement he shares that he received $2,000. Now how do you feel? Did your excitement for the $1,000 suddenly evaporate? Why is it that we have such a problem when we are treated justly and in this case even with generosity, but yet when we see others treated with generosity we struggle so much?
I wonder how much envy plays into our everyday lives. Envy seems to destroy gratitude and happiness. When will we be content, when will seeing others succeed be a joy for us? When will we be grateful?
I wrote this post more as a finger pointing back at myself. I struggle with comparison in my own life. I don't know why I sometimes get caught up in it. After hearing Elder Holland yesterday I have made a commitment to be more grateful, to cheer louder when others succeed and are blessed. I will try and be better at not comparing. One thing I have learned as a Bishop is there are sorrows that are hidden in the heart that the eye can't see. When you see the full picture your judgement of others changes dramatically. We have no idea how needed some blessings are for those around us. What we might perceive as an unfair excessive blessing for another is actually much more fair then we realize. I know that a benevolent Father in Heaven does see everything and I commit to more fully trust his fairness and generosity.
Happy early Thanksgiving everyone.
After writing this post last night I came across this video of a young man who I have a feeling doesn't struggle with envy as much as some of us do. Giving up millions of dollars to serve other people for two years at the age of 19. That is saying something about this young man's ability to be grateful.