There is a bit of both art and science in negotiating the cost of “optional utilities” for my family. Although we really don’t need TV, internet, or cell phone service, the latter two have become significant parts of our family’s lifestyle. However, if we just pay the bills each month, we will definitely be spending more than we need to. Instead, about once a year, when our last promotional rate runs out, I have to call the service providers (or chat online with their ‘bots) and see if they can provide me with another discounted rate.
One of my techniques is to search for existing offers from the companies that we are paying, as well as deals from their competitors. These serve as benchmarks for what a reasonable market price might be, so that I do not appear to be unrealistic in asking for a rate that is at least that low. Once or twice, though, I have been told that those offers are only for “new customers”. Of course, my strategic reply (while still being polite) is to ask whether long-time customers are more important than new customers. I don’t think that I’ve gotten a satisfactory explanation, but I usually end up getting what I think is a fair price in the end (although there’s always a risk that I will have to change service providers to get there).
While this industry seems to reward first-time subscribers, there are others that reward long-time participants with other benefits. Those seem to be less common these days, but it’s nice to be recognized for loyalty, especially if it comes with a gift (or discount).
In the Kingdom of God, though, undeserved blessings are available to everyone who joins God’s family. Jesus illustrated this in a parable, about workers who were hired to work in a vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). Some workers had started in the morning, while others started just an hour before the end of the work day, yet all were paid the same:
When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage.
Matthew 20:9-10 NLT
While those who worked longer complained about this, I really like what landowner (who I understand to be a reference to God the Father) says:
“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
Matthew 20:13-15 NLT
Nobody was cheated out of the wage that they were promised, and the person in charge (who owned both the land and the money to pay the wages in the first place) had the right to do whatever He wanted. And, He wanted to pay everyone the same, so He did.
God is in charge of everything, and is not bound by human ideas of what it “should” take to restore our relationship with Him. Let’s re-read that entire parable (Matthew 20:1-16), ask for God’s insight, and spend some time listening to Him. Then, we can look further into it, tomorrow.
In the second part of this article, let’s review some implications of this parable, and start to appreciate how God’s plan for our lives is so much better than negotiating with corporations and businesses.