Here's a bad story from Tractor Supply. There is a fellow who considers himself a big shot in the local agricultural arena. He hires transients to pick his stuff. He has two elderly locals who help him all year around. I won't do business with him because he also hires kids to pick for him. He works like this: He pays by the quart, but when the kids hand their quarts to him, he says, "These are not full quarts." He then combines the contents of the baskets, heaping them full. In this way, he gets about 1 1/3 quarts of produce picked for the price of a quart. Before he put the produce out to sell, he removes that mound of berries, and replaces it into other baskets, turning that 3 quarts of berries back into 4 quarts of berries. Like I said, I do not do business with the man. There are plenty of folks around who are ethical and good. I will not deal with a crook who steals from the pockets of the people who work for him, yet he is quick to pull the "I'm just a simple farmer who loves the land" routine when it benefits him. He takes. He does not give back.
He is a very heavy man who has been unfailingly polite to me. He calls me 'dear' and he calls me 'honey'. This sets my teeth on edge because I think that he is an odious man, but what can I say? I call people 'hon' too, and I suppose that it could be just a habit. I give him the benefit of the doubt and just stay very guarded with him. I don't like him.
In any case, he was into the store with the elderly lady who helps him, a woman who is in her seventies. She is always poorly dressed and dirty and tired looking, and it bothers me to see her. He came up to the register, and set his things up, and said to his helper in his very important way, "Lift that up for her," gesturing to a sack of feed. I quickly said, "No. That is not necessary. I can reach," and I walked around the counter with my pricer and got the bag. He was getting some Christmas shopping done too, and I rang him up for those things, and in his careless, nonchalant way, he pushed his check at me, and called me dear. I smiled because I am paid to do so, and began to process his check. I said, in my careful voice, "I will need your ID for such a large check," and he said once more in his important voice, "Run out and get my wallet from the truck," and the elderly lady shuffled off into the cold.
I think of the words that Christ said with his own lips: "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." I know that He was referring to situations just like this one. I know this.
I watch them leave. The shuffling elderly lady pushes the cart behind him as he waddles importantly to the door. I am a licensed lay reader in the Episcopal Church, something that used to matter when I was an Episcopalian. Now I am a Methodist and it does not matter at all. But when we processed into the church, there was a pattern. The priest followed us all. His position at the back of the procession was 'the position of honor.' Unwittingly, the important farmer has got that part right. And that made me smile.