A worldling who led a very devout life came to see Abba Poemen; there were other brothers there too with the elder, asking to hear a saying. Abba Poemen said to the faithful worldling: “Say something to the brothers,” but he excused himself saying, “I came to learn.” But at the elder’s great insistence he said: “I am a worldling, a greengrocer and a merchant. I buy wholesale and sell retail; I buy cheap and sell for much. I certainly do not know how to speak from Scripture but I will tell you a parable. Somebody once begged his friend, saying: ‘Since I have a desire to see the king, come with me.’
The friend said to him: ‘I will come halfway with you.’ To another friend he said: ‘Come on, you take me to the king,’ but he said to him: ‘I will take you as far as the king’s palace.’ He spoke to a third friend: ‘Come with me to the king,’ and he said: ‘I am coming; I will go to the palace; I will stand and speak [on your behalf] and I will usher you into the king’s presence.’” “What is the meaning of the parable?” they asked him, and he said: “The first friend is spiritual discipline, which leads you halfway; the second is purity, which gets as far as heaven; the third is charitable alms-giving, which brings you confidently before God the king”–and the brothers went their way edified.
(Abba Poemen, Give Me a Word, pp. 245-246).