Within an old city, in a forgotten land, there was a family that had the care of the King’s cattle. From these beasts, they where to receive their sustenance for survival, as well as receiving tokens and gratitude from their King. The father of the family was a gentle sort, and though his children lacked perfection in conduct, he allowed their folly to show itself from time to time, for he thought, “they need encouragement to develop properly into dependable adults.”
That is not to say that he gave no stern instruction. On one command he was quite serious and bade his children recite his command. “With all diligence, you must care for the animals, for they belong to the King, and he is a man who requires good stewardship. He has been liberal with us. We may eat to our hearts satisfaction, not only of the meat of the flocks and herds, but of his fields of grain as well. Be therefore content with our station in life, for others must toil all day to have but a pittance of our great feast.”
After recitation of the oath their father further instructed them; if your job is to feed the beasts, do so. If your employ is to water them, then do so; if to guard them, then protect. You should love this task, for with its completion, you show your respect for my command – for one another, and affection for our benefactor, the King. Should you fail in this service, it will be the end of us all. Hunger will be our lot, and ignominy will follow us about the rest of our lives.”
Now it came to pass that of all the children, one was the most neglectful. He had listened to those who passed by the fencing. His listeners encouraged his complaints and helped him to justify his dissatisfaction. He could not overcome their ideas, so his satisfaction was to ignore any task he thought was unfair, or too hard. “Let my siblings tend to it. I don’t feel like being a part of the family’s responsibilities. I need to be happy. I will be silent and act as if I am uninformed.” Ruminating further, he conjured his outward disposition – “I shall display my outer countenance as timid, artless, and naïve. No one will fault me or bring accusation, since they will say, ‘…he is too simple.’ “Besides,” he continued, “I need to be free to make my own decisions.” And so the indolent gave little thought to his father’s words.
Many an evening he refused to close the gate, because he reasoned, that the gate was trouble, and better to ignore it than have it be cause for his distraction and irritation. One evening, after he had turned his back to the flock, wolves crept in through the unguarded gate and stole off with all the pregnant ewes. Though he recognized the error he refused to make good the deed and to consult his father. He thought, “No one will care if I fail to alert the others. After all, there are other ewes that will mate soon, and eventually there will be more lambs.”
Several weeks later when the lambing started, the King came to take part. It was his desire to observe the work and select the best lambs for an offering at the Temple of the God of Heaven. However, when he was informed that there were no lambs, he became furious, and demanded an explanation. So he brought the herdsman in and asked if the rams and the ewes were healthy and had they not mated. The herdsman was frightened, begging the King to spare him. “I took great care in placing the proper ewes before the feed trough, and by placing the rams behind them, sire. All went as nature directs. We have never had a missed lamming before.”
So the King directed him to account for the sheep and report if any were missing. After checking the records it was discovered that indeed many ewes were missing, so the headsman brought the family in before the King, for they were in charge of feeding and protection.
Now the father could not explain the loss. So, in the hall of the King, he inquired of his children and found that the simplest job had been given to his careless son, that of closing the gate – since he would not put his heart to anything else. Neither would he express his dissatisfactions directly, but only pouted. The son, when confronted sternly by the King, retorted that the task was too much to bear by himself and that he had tried his best to work at such a humble and boring occupation – reasoning that he had to think of himself – for once.
The King discharged the lad from his duties and thrust him outside of the Castle with no money or food. However, the King retained the family in service, but their loss of the sibling and the disgrace of his actions, stayed with them for years to come.
The lazy lout’s activity demonstrated no love for his family, and less for the King. Though he thought well of his own person, the lad’s error brought great consternation for him. Set free to roam and think of only himself, happiness and prosperity escaped the fellow the rest of his life. He spent his remaining years wailing with sorry and begging for scraps from wayfarers.
“And now dear lady, I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” [2John 5,6]
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” [1 John 4:11]
“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” [1 John 5: 2-3]