I was invited to a lunch for retired people yesterday at one of the churches in Perth. Little 'Doris' came with me, and behaved beautifully - although in typical fashion found the attention of people she didn't know too scary and hid behind her colouring book for most of the time! The highlight of the occasion though was a story that one of the older men told me after we had eaten - it was called The Parable of the Two Angels; it's simplicity contains a truth that is easier said than truly grasped.
One one occasion God saw that some work needed to be done on earth and decided to dispatch two angels to complete the tasks. Both angels He selected for the jobs were middle-ranking angels who had been close friends if not for ever, then at least since before the beginning. Both angels were thrilled to be given an assignment by God, packed for the trip and collected the envelopes containing their instructions. The first angel arrived on earth, and with a glad heart opened his envelope. He was surprised to discover that he was going to preach that day to two-thousand people, with remarkable results. He went and got on with the work - delighted to have a chance to serve. The second angel arrived on earth shortly after him, and with a glad heart opened the envelope containing his instructions. He was surprised to discover that he was to sweep the streets of the town and collect all the litter. He went and got on with the work - delighted to have a chance to serve. When the work was completed they met together and travelled back to heaven, eager to see God again. On the journey home, they talked about their day and what they had encountered. The second angel fought back slight feelings of disappointment that his friend had been entrusted with so much responsibility while his tasks had been somewhat mundane. The first angel fought back the feelings of smug superiority he sensed in himself as they spoke together. The greatest surprise of the day occurred however when they came before God to offer Him the worship of their completed service. "Well done, my good and faithful servants!" declared God to the old friends as they bowed before Him. And he handed them both an identical reward. The second angel looked stunned and was about to query why his friend hadn't received more than him, given the relative importance of the tasks they had performed - when he stopped himself, realising that there's never really an appropriate moment to query God's judgement. "I know what you are thinking" though said God, "why should I reward you both equally for what you consider to be unequal tasks? The fact is you both worked with equal love for me, in obedience to my will. I could have given either task to either of you and equipped you for it, but you both served me with equal love and faithfulness. The value of a work to be done, is not found in the applause it gains from people, but in the love it demonstrates for the one who instructed it."