In one of my favorite stories, Jesus talks about a certain landowner who had a record year. His vineyard had produced triple the usual amount. Picking grapes around the clock, they were still falling behind schedule. Winter chills were in the air, and those grapes had to be picked as soon as possible. So the landowner decided to hire additional pickers to bring the remaining crop in.
Early in the morning the landowner started hiring and offered a very generous pay. Highly motivated, the pickers went right to work. “This is a great opportunity to catch up on some bills”, one of the crop workers remarked. “Well then – pick away!” the other jokingly said.
As the day went on, more and more crop workers joined the crew – in the morning, mid-morning, around noon, in the afternoon, and late in the afternoon. – They had exactly one hour of daylight left when the last pickers arrived. Apparently the land owner had made up his mind to get every last grape picked by the end of the day.
And so it happened. The crop workers picked the vineyard clean right before the Sun went down, and they were done for the day. At a table near the exit the landowner sat down to hand out a full day’s wages for each worker. Celebration was in the air; everybody was happy – except for the guys who were hired first. They began to complain to each other: “This is not fair! We have done most of the work, why should everybody receive the same amount of pay?” – “Do you have a problem with my generosity?” The landowner asked the incensed crop workers, and this is how the story ends.
Jealousy puts a negative spin on the Golden Rule by thinking along these lines:
“I’ve done this for you, now I expect you to do this for me.”
That’s no Golden Rule, that’s blackmail.
Busy comparing, jealousy nourishes a constant undercurrent of unhappiness.
If a group of jealous people had a conversation with Jesus and He would ask them pointblank: “What is up with you guys? Is there anything I can do to help? You don’t seem to enjoy life very much.” Their reply would probably be: “How about some fairness when you created us! You have lathered some with gifts and talents, and others you seem to have overlooked. Give to us as what you have given to others – that is Your Golden Rule, right?” Jesus looked at each of them compassionately before He answered their question with a question of His own: “Why would you have a problem with my generosity?”
The Golden Rule is not so golden when misinterpreted. We are golden if we show some self-respect. Respecting ourselves, we will develop respect for others. And by cherishing our own gifts we will enjoy a newfound appreciation for other people’s talents without interfering jealousy. As we learn to embrace ourselves we will more generously embrace others.