It isn’t often, when we get to see one of the savior’s parable’s directly at work in our modern society. Often, concepts like wheat and tares, or vineyards are abstract and removed from our day to day concerns. This week, however, the Savior’s parable of the workers in the vineyard which Elder Holland so expertly discussed not too long ago in General Conference replayed itself for all too see.
Dan Price, a CEO of a Seattle Credit Card Processing Company in Seattle decided that he would pay all of his workers a minimum salary of $70,000 a year after realizing that many of his younger employees were struggling to pay student loans and other obligations. He did this mostly by cutting out his large bonus.
The New York Times this weekend ran a follow up article and looked at some of the results. The whole article is worth reading in full, but one detail stood out to me in particular. At least two of Price’s most talented workers quit, because they were upset that workers less skilled than they received such a high salary. This came even though they had received a wage increase, although not as sharp an increase as the lower salaried employees. The article is filled with quotes from these higher paid employees belittling the skills of their less experienced former colleagues.
When I saw this article, I thought of the Savior’s parable. As with the parable, the master has decided to pay the workers less skilled or less experienced workers a greater amount than they “deserve.” He has decided to be generous and kind. And those who worked “harder” felt entitled to a greater salary and angrily quit. (unlike the workers in the parable, they did earn more than the other workers just not as much as they felt they were entitled to receive). The words of the parable are deeply applicable:
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
I am sure that others will look at this story as a way to score political points, but for me reading this story underscored the spiritual truth of what the savior taught more than two thousand years ago. Indeed, it is interesting to see that human nature has not at all changed from the time of the savior. The natural man is still prideful and self-seeking. The natural man still seeks his own. The natural man would rather lose a good and well paying job, then see someone else benefit”undeservedly.”
It is very difficult—exceedingly hard in fact—to put off the natural man and to be humble enough to glory in the triumphs and successes of others. It is exceedingly difficult to cease from boasting, bragging or self serving behavior. With all of these tendencies, is it any wonder why the early saints struggled to live the law of consecration? Yet, we are all called to prepare ourselves for the day when we must fully live this higher law.
This instance for me further underscored how difficult and fraught the preparation can be.
These now workers failed to learn Elder Holland’s profound and yet simple lesson: “So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.” How can we avoid following their example?