PRAYER FOR THE WEEK
Jesus, teach me not to cheat, ever! Amen.


"Heaven is like a farmer who hired people to work in his fields," Jesus said. "He hired some at 9 a.m., some at noon, more in the afternoon and more later. Then he paid them all the same amount. The ones who'd worked longer grumbled. 'I'm not cheating you!' the farmer said. 'I promised you a day's pay, and you're getting it. So what if I want to pay these people just as much? It's my money.'" Jesus added: "The first will be last, and the last will be first."

Cheating is wrong. Some kids do it anyway.

Whether they're cheating on tests, copying homework or going out with two people at the same time without admitting it, kids who cheat probably try to justify what they're doing. They say everyone does it; they argue to cover up how guilty they feel. They can't justify cheating, because everyone knows it's wrong.

This week's Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16) might seem to be about cheating. Really, it's about rewards.

Cheating is when you pretend someone else's work is your own, use something that doesn't belong to you or are dishonest with people. In the Gospel story, the farmer agrees on what he'll pay each person he hires. Then he decides to hire more people -- and more, and more.

In the end, he gives all of them the same amount of money. The ones who worked the longest see that as cheating, but the farmer points out that he gave them all the money he promised them. Cheating would be giving them less! He's just being generous with the other workers.

Cheating takes something away from others. It takes away recognition for their work, since someone else is claiming it as their own. It takes away trust, because going out with someone shouldn't mean sneaking around with other people, too.

Jesus was really talking about God and us. God, the "farmer," is willing to give all of us the same generous reward: heaven. Being a good person doesn't take something away from someone else.

There's enough heaven to go around. Kids might cheat, but God won't!