The owner of an orchard left instructions for his steward, "Do not allow anyone to pick fruit from the tree in the center of the orchard while I am away on my journey."
The steward thought how best to follow these instructions. He decided to make a sign to post near the tree. It read, "Do not pick fruit from this tree."
The next day the steward went out to survey the orchard. He saw several children playing tag around the tree, and one little boy sitting on one of the low-reaching branches. The steward was alarmed, "Children! Away! We must not disturb the fruit of this tree!"
The steward decided to build a fence around the tree and he hung a sign on it that read, "Do not go inside the fence."
The next day, as the steward surveyed the orchard, he found a worker leaning against one of the fence's posts as he rested from his work. A branch from the tree hung over the fence near the worker's head. The steward was alarmed, "Get away from there! We must not touch this tree!"
The steward decided to build another fence around the first one, and he hung a sign on it that read, "Do not touch the fence."
The next day, as the steward surveyed the orchard, he saw the workers picking fruit from trees near the fence. As he watched, an apple fell from one of the trees and landed inside the outer fence. The steward was alarmed, "Go pick elsewhere! We must not risk touching the fence!"
The steward decided to send the workers home and close the gates to the orchard.
The next week the owner of the orchard returned from his journey. He found his gates closed, his workers gone, and unpicked fruit hanging from his trees. "What have you done?" he asked his steward. "My fruit should have been picked by now, yet the harvest is rotting in the branches!"
"I was trying to keep the workers from touching the fence that surrounded the fence that surrounded the tree whose fruit we were not to pick."
"Oh foolish steward! I only sought to preserve the fruit from one tree so that when I returned from our journey we would have it to enjoy at our harvest celebration. Now we have no harvest to celebrate!"
In his zeal for the law, the fool adds to the law, and makes vain what was perfect.