One of my pastors, I’ll call him Jeff, is also a dad to a five year old. One Sunday he told the story of receiving a call from a mom down the street who said, “I don’t think our boys need to play together anymore. Please come get him.”
Jeff’s son, whom I’ll call Noah, was friends with this woman’s son and often played at their house. But while visiting that day, Noah had broken something. It wasn’t just an ordinary something but a special truck the woman’s son had received for Christmas. The mom told Jeff that Noah had gotten mad, picked up the truck, and flung it across the room.
Crimes and Punishment
The words out of control flashed through Jeff’s head, and he raced off to pick up his son and read him the riot act. On the drive home with Noah, Jeff repeated the things he and his wife, Amanda, had talked about many times with their family: “You can’t behave that way! We don’t lose our temper and smash things. That’s not the way we act in this family because we treat others the way we want to be treated.”
Jeff hoped he made an impression on his young son’s heart, but he wasn’t sure.
A week later Amanda called him at the office to say that a pair of headphones were broken. Noah, in a fit of anger, had slung his dad’s new headphones outside on the sidewalk over and over like a whip, smashing them to bits.
Jeff felt desperate. What should he do now? As he headed home to deal with the situation, a parable popped into his head. It was the story of the crazy landowner who paid his part-time workers the same as those who had worked all day (Matthew 20:1–16). It seemed weird that this story had come to mind on that particular day.1