Equal Pay? A Commentary for the Greenfield Vedette, Sept. 21, 2008

Another week has passed with just 14 weeks left in 2008.  The year is passing quickly, and soon the leaves will begin falling from the trees.  Autumn is a wonderful time to celebrate God’s beautiful creation! 

 

Our worship on Sunday included the hymn, “Be Still My Soul” by Katharina A. von Schlegel.  The first verse touched my heart especially: 

‘Be still, my soul!  The Lord is on your side:

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to your God to order and provide;

in every change he faithful will remain

Be still, my soul!  Your best, your heavenly Friend

Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

 

May you remember today, and every day, that God is with you to lead and guide you and to give you peace.

 

What Presbyterians Believe . . . About the Bible

 

“The church confesses the Scriptures to be the Word of God written, witnessing to God’s self-revelation. Where that Word is read and proclaimed, Jesus Christ the Living Word is present by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the reading, hearing, preaching, and confessing of the Word are central to Christian worship.” (Book of Order, W-2.2001)

 

Sermon Excerpt

 

If you’ve ever cared for or raised children, you know that life isn’t fair.  In fact, my children used to remind me of that fact regularly.  “It isn’t fair.  He didn’t have to do it.”  “She didn’t fold clothes.  You’re not being fair.”  “All my friends are allowed.”

 

One of my friends regularly told her children:  “Life isn’t fair.  Get used to it.”  While that may seem a bit harsh, it is true.  Life doesn’t come with a balance sheet with equal entries on each side. 

 

Our country’s stated purpose is fairness.  Every child can get an education.  Workers can fight for fair and equitable wages and safe work conditions.  “Equal pay for equal work” was the cry of the women’s movement.  And yet, fairness continues to be an elusive goal.

 

The story is told of a socialist who came to see Andrew Carnegie.  Soon the young man was railing against the injustice of Carnegie having so much money. In his view, wealth was meant to be divided equally. Carnegie asked his secretary for an assessment of everything he owned and at the same time looked up the figures on world population. He did a little arithmetic on a pad and then said to his secretary. “Give this gentleman 16 cents. That’s his share of my wealth” (unknown).

 

We each want our piece of the pie, our just rewards, as did the workers in the vineyard in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20:1-16. 

 

A landowner went to the market to hire workers for his vineyard.  He hired workers at 6 a.m. and contracted to pay each of them a denarius, that is, one day’s wages.  He then hired additional workers throughout the day.  

 

At the end of the work day, the landowner settled with his workers, beginning with the last hired.  He gave each of them a denarius, a day’s wages.  Those who had worked the entire day expected to receive more since they had worked the longest, but they also received a denarius.

 

At first glance we might agree with the first-arriving workers.  They worked harder and should receive more.  And yet, they had received the agreed-upon amount. 

 

Each Christian, at one time in our lives, made a contract, a covenant with God.  We were standing in the marketplace, busy in our everyday lives, realizing that we needed more than we had.  God entered our lives through the Holy Spirit, inviting us to fellowship, to enjoy God’s mercy and grace through Jesus Christ. 

 

In that moment God presented the terms of the contract:

  • I am a sinner, without an excuse,
  • There is nothing I can do to earn heaven’s rewards or God’s forgiveness, and
  • Through His death on the cross, Jesus carried the penalty for every sin I have or will commit.

 

Once we accepted those terms and asked for forgiveness, for salvation, we became children of God, adopted in.  No longer were our sins held against us.  What we were before no longer mattered.

 

A thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him in Paradise.  Without an altar call, baptism, or communicants or membership class, Jesus promised that man a place with Him in heaven.  An extreme situation for sure, but God paid that man the same wages as promised to you and me.

 

But we forget that God has promised provide what we need.  So we make out our own balance sheets, expecting God to provide what we put on the list rather than what God knows is best for us.  Then we envy what God does for others.

 

It wasn’t unfair for the landowner to pay each worker the same wage.  He paid the proper wage to the faithful, to those who had been there the longest time.  But in his mercy he also paid that wage to each of the workers so they could have what they need.

 

One person said, “Envy is when I find myself counting someone else’s blessings!”  Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Like the landowner, God gives us what we need each day, but not always what we want or what we think is fair. 

 

First of all, let us remember that we are God’s children, great and small, old and new.  And let us count our own blessings today! 

 

Mary Kay Glunt

 

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