A certain man's house burnt down, and all the neighbors used the empty lot as a garbage dump.
The man had the good fortune to be on friendly terms with the mayor, who was extremely wealthy. The mayor generously promised to build the man a new home. However, he asked that first all the garbage be removed from the lot.
The man paid for the garbage removal, and the mayor fulfilled his promise and built him a beautiful home.
Once the mayor heard the man boasting how he and the mayor had together paid for the house's construction. The mayor was rather taken aback. "What do you mean that you helped build it? What did you pay for?"
The man responded by displaying the receipts for the garbage removal.
"Wait a minute," replied the mayor. "Cleaning up was your responsibility, since you allowed the neighbors to trash your lot. But that cleanup job has nothing to do with building the new home. That I built alone."
Some people think that they deserve a reward for doing teshuvah, for their efforts in correcting their ways and refining their character traits. But in fact, this cleanup job is their responsibility. They allowed the garbage to accumulate in their hearts.
Adapted from Meshalim Ve-gam Sipurim Le-no'ar ule-kol Bet Yisra'el, pp. 97-98