Once there were two brothers.
The older brother was very rich. Everything he touched turned to gold. In fact, he was so rich he barely knew what to do with all his wealth. Only one thing was missing. He was childless. After many years of marriage he and his wife had been unable to conceive a child.
The younger brother, although a tireless worker, had been unfortunate in life and he lived in abject poverty. But unlike his wealthy brother, he and his wife had welcomed many sons and daughters.
One day, the brothers were summoned to their father’s bedside. The old man was dying. He explained he was leaving half his estate to each of them, a 50/50 share.
He also added that because he didn’t want any unseemly disagreements after he was gone he had hammered a stake into his land as a way-marker to indicate the halfway point. There would be no disagreements that way.
And with that he breathed his last.
The brothers made the appropriate preparations for their father’s burial and then they both went home.
That night the younger brother tossed in his bed. He thought. “What my father did was not fair! To grant us each half his estate when my dear brother has no children, no sons to carry on his name, no daughters to comfort him in his old age. I know what I’ll do. I’ll wake very early, before sunrise, and sneak onto my father’s estate and move the way-marker so that my brother receives the larger share of the inheritance.”
At the same time the older brother also tossed on his bed. He thought, “What my father did was not fair! To grant us each half his estate when my dear brother’s family starves and can barely get by. He works so hard and yet can barely make ends meet. I know what I’ll do. I’ll wake very early, before sunrise, and sneak onto my father’s estate and move the way-marker so that my brother receives the larger share of the inheritance.”
The next day, very early, before the sun had even risen, those two brothers met at the marker and fell into each others’ arms in tears.
Tradition has it that the place where their tears mingled with the soil was the exact spot upon which the city of Jerusalem would be built.
I first heard that story from the wonderful Kenneth Bailey. It reminds me that anyone who would wish to contribute to the building of the New Jerusalem must be aware that selflessness and love, kindness and mercy, are the cornerstones of that new city.
Instead of sleepless nights tossing in bed thinking of ways to humiliate your opponent, we need leaders who are kept up at night finding ways to bring healing to a strife-torn nation. Mercy for our sisters and brothers. And justice for all.
It’s too much to expect to see the candidates embracing in tears at the way-marker at the heart of the nation. But is it too much to yearn for the coming of the New Jerusalem and the setting to rights of everything that is not fair, not true, not just, not loving.
7 thoughts on “A parable about brotherhood on the occasion of the Presidential Debate”
I once heard an Amish man describing marriage similarly. He was explaining to some young kids that a good marriage is a bit like picking beans – each partner was responsible for picking their half of the bean bush. The wise thing, he said, was to each pick a little further to the others side than you ‘had’ to and that would ensue that all the beans were picked.
Great story. And a good comparison.
All teams and partnerships need this approach to achieve their goals, i reckon.
Love this parable Mike. It certainly stands in the tradition of Hebrew stories that “refuse to comfort those who would rather remain at ease in a foreign land”, and invites us to lift our eyes to a better Kingdom. Blessings