I heard Jeff Arthurs from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary read this little parable at an Evangelical Homiletics Society gathering many years ago. Afterwards I asked him for a copy so that I could share it with my classes. It was published in 1919 by William Eleazar Barton, otherwise known as “Safed the Sage”. The piece has been edited.
Now there is a railway that runneth through the town where I live, and there are gates that are pulled down when a train goeth by. And one day when I would have crossed the tracks, the gates went down, so that I stopped. And I spake unto the man who keepeth the crossing, and I said, “lovest thou thy job?”
And he said, “I count myself lucky to have this job, for I am neither young nor strong; nevertheless mine is a hard job.”
And I said, “wherefore should thy job be hard?”
And he said, “because I save people’s lives and they curse me.”
“They come down the street breaking the speed limit, and honking for me to lift the gates; or if they be on foot they duck under. And when I warn them not to cross the tracks lest they die, they act as if I were their enemy.”
And I took him by the hand, and I said, “Thou art my brother, and my job is like unto thine.”
And he said, “Art thou not a minister?”
And I answered, “I am a crossing-tender. Where thou seest yonder spire, I tend a crossing; and i say unto the wicked, go not in thine evil way, lest thou die, but they continue to go as they did before. And I say unto the heedless, duck not under the gate, lest evil befall thee; but they duck as they were wont to do.”
My job is like unto the crossing-tenders for my job has the same trials. Nevertheless, his is a good job, and so is mine. And every now and then we keep people on the right side of the gate.
So I considered this, and I resolved to do it as well as I could.