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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Oil Man and the Farmer

The Oil Man and the Farmer

The other day, I was watching one of the news channels where they reported the congressional investigations into high oil prices and enormous oil company profits. One by one oil company executives defended their business practices by claiming that oil was a commodity and that speculators, not they, were responsible for high prices, and besides that’s just the way the economy works.
The whole show minded me of a story I heard about a wheat farmer living out in western Oklahoma. This old boy was good at what he did. He had prospered at what is at best a very chancy sort of business. However, this one year, he had really done well. Most of the time when he had had a good crop, his neighbors had done well also and that depressed the prices they all got for their grain. But as can happen in farming, he had done extremely well, but his fellow farmers saw their fields ravaged by a freak prairie fire. This meant that he had a bonanza on his hands. His grain was worth five times its usual price.
Now, in addition to his neighbors’ bad luck, the rest of the country was in pretty bad shape also. For a variety of reasons, the nation faced a real wheat shortfall. Now, the worst of this hadn’t hit yet, but this farmer could tell it was coming. What was now a good deal promised to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, excusing the fact that common folks would be spending a lot more to put bread on the table.
So being, the smart fellow he was, the farmer knew that if he could only hold on a little bit longer, he would be set for life. So he said, "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods." But that night he had a dream, and in it he heard a voice that said, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
Well, I guess you know where I’m headed with this. The smarter ones of you were on to me from the start. This story isn’t original with me. A guy named Jesus of Nazareth told it a long time ago. I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: what may seem right and normal and "just the way things are" from our point of view, may be something entirely different once we see them the way God might. We might think that big money from a needed commodity is just business. God might wish us to consider the moral implications of a few of us doing very well while many of us suffer. In any case, this ought to give us pause to consider the old question, just what would Jesus do? After all, Jesus seems like a right smart fellow.

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