“The Little Red Hen” is a useful story about people who prepare and people who are lazy. The creatures who are lazy expect to get something for nothing, and the creature who worked is having none of it.
“In the tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals (most adaptations feature a pig and a duck) to plant it, but none of them volunteer. At each later stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance. Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. She declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work. Thus, the hen eats it with her chicks leaving none for anyone else. The moral of this story is that those who show no willingness to contribute to a product do not deserve to enjoy the product.” – from Wikipedia
Then there is also the story of “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, which echoes this.
“The fable concerns a grasshopper that has spent the warm months singing while the ant (or ants in some versions) worked to store up food for winter. When that season arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food. To its reply when asked that it had sung all summer, it is rebuked for its idleness and advised to dance during the winter.” – from Wikipedia.
This echoes what the apostle Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.” (RSV)
But fables, and Paul, are not Jesus. What does Jesus have to say about all of this?
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” (RSV)
This is totally not fair. But human ways of doing things aren’t the same as God’s ways of doing things.
God says in Isaiah 55:8
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
This doesn’t make any of this any easier, though. Isn’t it “enabling” to let someone slide, to get away with being a slacker? It is hard to work as a team and only two out of the three people are working – but you all get the same pay. It is hard to want to help someone who refuses to take care of themselves.
You know, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I grew up with that phrase.
We think like this, but God doesn’t.
It kind of sucks.
I want people to reap what they sow, not what I sow. I want people to fall face first into their own mess, rather than me having to come rescue them from it. But I know I shouldn’t think like this.
This being a disciple is hard. It is kind of like being in AA.
Non-believers think following Jesus is for weak people, but that can’t be further from the truth. Following Jesus means dropping everything that popular culture has taught about being selfish and “every man for himself”. It means putting yourself and your needs last. It means doing the right thing even though it is the last thing you want to do.