When we set goals, we often make a checklist to monitor our progress. But when we talk about setting the goal to become like our Heavenly Father, a checklist may not be as helpful as it is with other goals. Why? Because achieving this goal is not about checking off some to-do list. Achieving this goal is not about what we have done, it is about what we have become.
In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, we learn about the laborers who were hired at different hours of the day. At the end of the day’s work, the Lord of the vineyard compensated each one equally with the same wage regardless of the number of hours they worked.
What does this parable teach us? The gift of eternal life is not about how long we have labored in the Lord’s vineyard or how much work we have done. Rather, it is about how our labors transformed us. Did our work help us to become more compassionate, forgiving, and considerate of others? Did our labors help us to become more Christ-like? Did we become better disciples of Jesus Christ? Did we become better people?
It is our state of being, after all our efforts to become like Him, by which we will be judged. If we do our best, the Spirit of God will be able to work “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we [will] have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”
Reaching this point does not happen overnight. It also does not have a standard timeline. Like the laborers in the vineyard, some may need a longer amount of time to reap the day’s reward than others. Time is not the yard stick by which we will be judged. Newly baptized members may sometimes feel inadequate when they hear people say that they have been LDS members for many decades or they grew up in the LDS church. No one needs to feel that they are inadequate, too late, or have very little spiritual experience, because the most important thing is that we have started the journey and that our course is steady.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the apostles of the LDS church, shared a story that further illustrates that the value that we get from our effort is more important than the effort itself.
Two men formed a partnership. They built a small shed beside a busy road. They obtained a truck and drove it to a farmer’s field, where they purchased a truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. They drove the loaded truck to their shed by the road, where they sold their melons for a dollar a melon. They drove back to the farmer’s field and bought another truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. Transporting them to the roadside, they again sold them for a dollar a melon. As they drove back toward the farmer’s field to get another load, one partner said to the other, “We’re not making much money on this business, are we?” “No, we’re not,” his partner replied. “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”
The efforts of these two men are remarkable. However, no matter how many truckloads of melons they might sell, it would be of no value to them. It is the same with our efforts to do good. No matter how much good we do, if it does not add value to us or help us to become better, our efforts will be useless.
As we strive to become like Jesus Christ, may we shift our focus from asking, “how much good have I done?” to “how much closer am I to Christ?”