The Parable of the Phrase that Pays

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

I’ve had this thought in my head for months, but am just now getting around to writing it down. Call it distraction if you want; that’s probably the main culprit in suppressing it for so long. The issue is timeless anyway.

In Matthew 25: 1-14 (in the Bible), Jesus gives the parable of the ten virgins (or maidens, if semantics is an issue), who were waiting for their bridegroom to arrive. Five of them came to the house prepared with lamp oils; the other five stood there like monkeys until realizing they needed to get oil of their own. So, while the first five continued to wait by the door patiently for the bridegroom to arrive, the second five disbursed, looking for the very thing they forgot to bring. Well, while they were out getting the things they procrastinated over, the bridegroom arrived at the house, let the first five in, and closed the door. When the second five returned with their lamp oils, the door was already locked, so they missed their chance. Sucked to be them.

A local radio station has a marketing scheme that reminds me of this parable. Every ten minutes of every day, they play the slogan: “Ninety-seven nine WRMF plays the best variety of the eighties, nineties, and today.” They play it so much that it’s impossible to forget. My brain receives so much information each day that I can hardly remember what I eat for breakfast (when I eat breakfast), much less detailed things like Bible verses, movie quotes, and song lyrics—things that most people have no trouble reciting. But I have no problem remembering this “Phrase that Pays,” as the radio station repeats it every freakin’ ten minutes. And yet, I find it surprising that so many people who get the call still don’t know what it is.

Here’s how it works: The radio station has a call list that the listener has to volunteer to be on (making it kinda odd that some people get upset when the DJ calls them). When the DJ gets them on the phone and asks them for the “phrase that pays,” the listener has to repeat the slogan word for word. If they get it right without adding, subtracting, misplacing, or changing a word, they get a thousand dollars. No strings attached. No listening commitments. Just money. Money for their cars, money for their homes, whatever they need it for. A thousand dollars. A free gift.

And the majority of people who get the call still don’t know it. They’re reminded all the time. They don’t know it. They’re warned of its worth. They still don’t know it. They don’t know when the call is coming, but it comes. And they’re not ready for it. And they lose out on a free gift. And it makes you wonder how they can let something like that slip away.

The message Jesus gave in Matthew 25 was to be prepared for His arrival. I think the “Phrase that Pays” is a good, modern example of that parable. Funny how a radio station that broadcasts its show from various cocktail bars on Friday nights can make one of Jesus’ many parables relevant, and yet, sad how even that’s not enough to get certain people to pay attention.

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