A sheep owner had to go on an extended trip. As he prepared for his journey, his neighbor came to him and said, “Friend, while you are gone, I will take care of your flock for you.” The owner was grateful and accepted his neighbor’s offer of help. Then he went on his way.
While he was gone, his neighbor was not faithful to remember his offer to help the owner. He spent much time at the city gates playing “throw the stones.” In the evening when he would come home, the neighbor would pass by the owner’s house and say to himself, “Oh, well, I forgot today, but the flocks will be alright until tomorrow.” Then he would go into his home and sleep. After a while, the sheep owner’s flocks began to be sick and some of them died. The gate developed a break in it and many of the owner’s flock escaped through the break.
When the owner came home from his trip, he noticed that the men at the city gate gazed at him with strange, angry expressions. He didn’t understand why his friends would behave so. His neighbor was also at the gate, but he refused to meet the owner’s gaze. Upon his arrival at his home, the owner found his flock dead or missing. The men from the city gate followed him home and stood accusing him of being cruel, to leave his animals without anyone to care for them. As they spoke, the owner’s neighbor stood with them and allowed this criticism, and he even offered criticisms of his own, without any mention that he had offered to take care of the flock in the owner’s absence. The city-gate men told him that they would hold a council to discuss this owner’s negligence and pass judgment on him.
The owner was amazed at his neighbor’s accusations. At the council meeting, he reminded the neighbor that while he had intended to hire someone to care for his flock, the neighbor had made the offer of help, and the owner had accepted his generous offer. His neighbor accused the owner of not being thoughtful enough of him to leave the animal’s food where he could easily reach it. He spoke of the struggle to get water from the city well to the flock, and that the owner had not told him how difficult it would be to care for this flock. Then the owner asked the city-gate men why they had not done anything to help keep the flock from dying, since they saw that the flock was not being cared for.
The city-gate men then knew the truth of what the neighbor had done, and they turned their gaze upon him. The neighbor was unable to look at the city-gate men, because he had made many false accusations against the owner in his absence. And the city-gate men were ashamed that they had not been better friends to the owner and tried to save the flock. The owner went to his home vindicated. The city-gate men went back to the city gate. The neighbor went back to his home, and every day he would go to the city gates and play a new game of “throw the stones” with the men at the city gate.