At some point near the beginning of time, in a far-away ancient land, there lived… a man. This man had a wife and some land, but unlike his neighbor’s, his land was hard and unyielding. Yet, he didn’t mind, for he knew God loved him and was always with him. He had faith that God would provide whatever was needed, whenever it was needed, in order that he may fulfill God’s purpose for his life… whatever that may be.
One day, our man was surprised with the news that his wife was expecting. It was on that same day he realized, as his family grew, so would their need for food. What few animals he tended would not be enough to support them, and since his barren land would not support more animals, he decided to attempt a garden.
Very quickly he felt disheartened as he struggled against the unyielding nature of his soil. So, he immediately asked God for His divine inspiration, and all at once, our man got an idea for a tool.
To his delight, this tool was very effective. The hardness of the soil could not stand against it. With it, our man was able to hoe at the earth for a long time before needing to rest. And, each time he rested, he would survey his progress. It was the growing promise of a garden, and from it his enthusiasm grew as well… until the moment his tool broke.
Our man just stood in stunned silence, staring at the broken tool at his feet. Suddenly, his progress didn’t seem so great. And, he finally noticed the sore muscles and painful blisters. He realized that the time it had taken to fashion the tool was almost as long as the use he got out of it. It would take many tools and blisters to complete even the smallest garden.
Although his evaluation of this first tool was somewhat disappointing, he did not lose faith. Knowing that God’s plans are often not easily understood by His children, our man accepted that the failure of this divinely inspired tool served some unknown purpose. So, undaunted, he asked God again for His divine inspiration, which God freely gave. And so, our man received the idea for a second tool.
Although this tool worked much better, it too eventually failed. This process continued for many months and upon evaluating each tool’s failure, our man gained understanding and became adept in the art of hoe making.
After a time, word came that a nearby neighbor was also attempting to grow a garden, and it occurred to our man that perhaps his neighbor might also benefit from the great amount of time and effort it had taken him to develop this garden tool. So, he took it and traveled to his neighbor’s for a little show-and-tell. But, when he arrived, he noticed that his neighbor had already developed his own version of a hoe… which looked quite different.
Both men stood there scratching their heads in wonder, curious about the difference. But, after a lengthy discussion, they believed they finally understood. You see, the neighbor’s soil was very pliable, and so his hoe had evolved to be dragged forward, tilling the soft earth. Our man’s soil was hard, and so his hoe had evolved to be swung like a axe. Although neither man had an immediate use for the others hoe, they both were very intrigued by the differences in their design. So, they agreed to keep each others hoe awhile for further study.
The very next morning, as our man was contemplating this new shape, he asked God once again for some divine inspiration, and as you might have guessed, he got it in spades. In what felt like no time at all, he was plowing up his garden with ease using his new giant-sized, ox-powered hoe. He was so excited that he rushed right over to return his neighbor’s hoe and share the design of his new invention. The neighbor was very interested indeed and thanked him vigorously.
When our man inquired if his hoe design had led to any new inventions, the neighbor informed him that they had indeed. There were two, and the neighbor called them a “pick-ax” and a “shovel”. Then, the neighbor explained how both these new tools had helped him dig a well, and now, in combination with our man’s ox-powered design, the neighbor would be able to plow and water an entire field of crops.
Now, our man was even more excited and asked right away to see these two new designs so that he too might dig a well next to his home and grow a large and luscious garden for his family. The neighbor said that he would be more than happy to oblige, but in order to see his two new designs, our man must first… pay money.
A hurtful disappointment settled on the heart of our man. “But I have no money” he said. “That’s not my problem,” came the reply. “But, I showed you my designs freely,” said our man. “You should have insisted on a trade,” replied the neighbor. “Look,” the neighbor continued “Go home, use your new plow and plant more crops than your family needs. Sell the extra and bring that money to me. Then, I will show you my inventions so that you can dig a well.”
So, with a heavy heart, our man went home, and, since he could not think of a better way, he did as the neighbor suggested. The plowing went very well, but the task of carrying enough water all the way up from the river to supply his entire field turned out to be a monumental task. Our man struggled daily to get enough, and while his neighbor’s crops grew large and full, his crops were sparse and thin. When harvest time came, most of the buyers wanted his neighbor’s crops. Only those who could not afford his neighbor’s high prices came to purchase from our man.
Our man looked old and tired. “This is all the money I could make,” he told the neighbor. “May I see your new tool designs now?” The neighbor quickly examined the money and firmly replied “My price has gone up.” “what! Why?” cried our man. “Well, just look at the season I’ve had,” explained the neighbor. “The ability to dig a well is incredibly valuable. The designs for these tools are worth so much more. Come back when you have five times this much.”
With his shoulders slumped and his head hung low, having for the first time completely forgotten about God, our man turned away and began slowly walking home. The thought of four more long years of such hard work was almost more than his spirit could bear. The neighbor, noticing how depressed our man was, started to feel a twinge of guilt. But just then, the devil, who had been there the whole time, secretly rushed forward and silently whispered into the neighbor’s ear.
At that very moment an evil lie, that now all too common phrase, broke forth from his neighbor’s lips and entered into our world for the very first time: “It’s nothing personal. It’s just good business.”