The Prince and the Poor Men
One day, a wealthy man, a prince, stood outside his mansion when a ragged pauper came by, stopped, and begged for a mite.
The prince answered him and said: “Bread and water will I give you, for no one shall go hungry or thirsty from my door; and work you may have in my vineyard and in my garden; but your pay shall be according to your work.”
The pauper bowed deeply to the prince, and said: “My lord, you are a mighty man. You have many possessions and great wealth. Give me the least costly of the rings on your fingers that I may purchase a shop, for that is my heart’s desire.”
The prince looked at him sternly, and said: “You must truly work diligently to demand such pay, for know that you will receive no pay until your work is done.” And the prince offered him bread and a cup of water.
The pauper flung the bread to the ground and thrust the cup from the prince’s hand, and shouted: “Lord, you are evil and hard-hearted, for you share not of your abundance. Eternal damnation be on your head!”
The prince replied: “Your curses will all turn against yourself, for you refused to accept my offer.”
But the pauper turned from the prince and walked on and continued his begging, and the prince sighed over the folly of men.
Then another pauper came by, stopped, and asked for a mite.
The prince answered him and said: "Bread and water will I give you, and work you may have in my vineyard and in my garden; but your pay will be according to your work.”
The pauper took the bread, put it in his sack and placed the cup at his side, bowed deeply to the prince, and said: “Lord, the work you offer me is not to my liking. It is hard work. Hire me as your cupbearer, or your gate-keeper, and I shall serve you faithfully!”
The prince looked at him, and said: “When you have performed your work to my satisfaction, I shall double your pay and make you my gate-keeper.”
The pauper entered the vineyard and worked, but soon wearied of it for the work was not to his liking. And he went to the prince, and said: “Lord, if I am to work for you, my pay must be doubled, for the work is very hard."
The prince looked at him, and said: “Foolish one, how can I double your pay for work you have not yet performed? Go back and be faithful!"
Then shouted the pauper angrily: “Lord, you are evil and hard-hearted, for you share not of your abundance!” And he left the princely mansion and continued his begging. And the prince sighed over the folly of men.
Behold, then a third man in rags came walking past, and he also stopped and asked for a mite.
The prince answered him and said: “Bread and water will I give you, and you may work in my vineyard and my garden, and your pay shall be according to your work.” And he offered him bread and water.
The pauper ate the bread and drank the water, bowed deeply to the prince, thanked him, and said: “Lord, I will gladly accept the work you offer me, for I have searched and searched but found no work.” And he entered the vineyard and began working.
The pauper kept all in the best of order. The plants blossomed forth and the trees bore much fruit, for he carefully weeded the garden.
Then went the prince to him, and said: “My faithful servant, I am pleased with your work. I shall double your pay and you shall be my head gardener.”
The pauper kissed the hem of the prince’s robe and thanked him. And he continued working with great diligence.
One day, the prince entered the garden to inspect the work and saw the gardener standing dejectedly by a withered plant,3 and he said: “Lord, behold this plant! I know not why it withers away. What shall I do with it?”
Replied the prince: “Dig up the plant and cast it out. It is worthless, for in my garden must be no withered plants.”
After a time, the prince again went to the garden to inspect the work. But then the gardener said to him: “Lord, behold this healthy, green plant! Behold its many blossoms! Lord, this is the plant you bade me cast out.”
Happily, the prince looked at the healthy plant and its beautiful blossoms, and said: “Tell me, how did you prevent this plant from withering away?”
Replied the gardener: “Lord, I found a worm at the roots. I cast the worm out, for it had already devoured many roots. Then I replanted, nourished and watered the plant well. I cut away the withered leaves and branches, and once more the plant began sprouting healthy, green shoots.”
Then the prince said: “My faithful servant, your pay I shall double, not once, not ten times, but a thousand times a thousand, for you shall be called my son, and you shall inherit all my riches!”
But the gardener threw himself at the prince’s feet, exclaiming: “Lord, I am not worthy of being called your son.” But the prince raised him up, and said: “My son, you were faithful in the least tasks, you will be faithful in the greatest.” And he led him to his mansion.
And the servants bowed deeply, greeted him, and bade him welcome as the son of their Lord.
3) Symbolizes a poorly performed task among his many good works.