The Root of an industrial Dispute


One of the most misunderstood stories in the world is about a fruit farmer who hired men to work in his harvest for union rates. By mid-morning he saw other men who had nothing to do, so he set them to work. In the afternoon, at the labour exchange, he got some more men and took them on too. And with an hour to go, just one hour to bring in the last bit of the fruit, he hired another crowd of men, and sent them in to work also.

When the wages were paid out they all got the same rate. It was a generous wage, a whole day’s pay, and they all had the same. The result – a union dispute. Those who worked all day claimed that they were entitled to more than they’d agreed to, because of the work differential. ‘Fair’s fair’, they said. ‘We’ve done ten times the work they’ve done’.

The employer pointed to the contract and said ‘But I’ve paid you more than the rate for the job: and you are annoyed not because you haven’t got what you wanted. You are annoyed because I have been kind to your work mates. You can’t stand my treating them generously, can you? It’s not that you want justice – you want preferential treatment.’

The point of this story is that you can never understand happiness if you are greedy. The love of God can never be received by the greedy, because they live in competition, comparing what they’ve not got with other people who seem to have more.

The love of God is just and fair and comes to men as they are. The reading for today is the original version of the story.

Now read: Matthew 20. 1 – 15.

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