Sermon Equal Pay for Unequal Work
Or Unequal Pay for Equal Work?
First story is about a cabbie and a minister, who both die at the same time and end up at the door of heaven. Peter welcomes them and then asks “What have you done for God”. The minister is very proud of the people she has converted and talks about all the hard work. The cabbie replies that all he has done is drive in downtown Toronto. Peter says the cabbie gets in without question. He has caused a lot more people to pray and call on God then the minister
It’s a cute story but I use it because it fits with the idea that everyone must u everything, whether it’s this life or the after-life.
Todays parable in the scripture challenges that idea. It challenges much of our economic and socially accepted norms. Whether we are protestant or not, we were raised with the Protestant Work Ethic. That is, you get what you earn and you are paid what you are worth. That is often not true.
This parable challenges that Protestant Work Ethic. Take a look at it
In the story the vineyard owner goes to the marketplace. He is looking to hire help for the day. It was a common practice for people looking for work to gather there. It was the equivalent of the hiring pool. He hires a few at first but throughout the day he finds he needs more and so he goes back several times to get more help. At the end of the day he pays them. This is the interesting twist. He instructs his steward to pay the last first so everyone can see what they are getting. He gives the last ones hired, who have only worked an hour, the full days pay. When the people who have worked all day come forward they are of course expecting a bonus. But they get none. They are angry but the owner says. You are getting what you agreed with this morning.
Right away the workers and many of us are offended. We ask ”Why should anyone work all day if the ones who only work an hour get the same amount.”?
Jesus challenges us to see this from a different perspective. Instead of saying “Equal pay for equal work” the parable is saying “Equal pay for equal need” The vineyard owner knows that the food costs for all the workers are the same. Just because you only got part-time work doesn’t make your rent is cheaper.
This past few months our protestant work ethic and our economic system have been severely challenged.
We suddenly talk about front-line workers and to a certain extent we have been made aware of their situation.
Why is it that someone going into a life threatening situation to deliver life-saving, critical care is paid $18 per hour where people who have been deemed non-essential are paid 10 times as much?
Why is it that CERB payment is higher than minimum wage?
Why is it that minimum wage is barely or not, enough to live off?
Are we recognizing that people need more money to live?
Are we now understanding that the gap between rich and poor is not
justifiable? In 1965 the ratio of compensation between CEO and worker was $20 to $1. Now it’s $280 to $1.
The parable talks about equal pay for unequal work but we are finding
ourselves in a world where there is unequal pay for equal work.
Our society has a great amount of financial prejudice. We judge people according to their bank account. There is an idea that if you are wealthy you must be a smarter person. Yet much of the wealth is inherited. Many wealthy people are sports or entertainment personalities and their compensation is severely out of perspective to working people. The numbers vary but the highest paid singers of last year were paid between $50 and $150 million dollars.
I understand where the idea of earning your way comes from. In the days of survival you needed everyone to pull their weight and the results were much more obvious. If you didn’t gather firewood – you froze. There are some people who are just lazy. However they cannot be the justification for the inequality we have. And the system has changed.
People no longer have equal earning power. Just because you work hard doesn’t mean you get ahead.
This parable has been used to talk about getting into heaven but Jesus doesn’t mention it here. He refers to the Kingdom of heaven. He is talking about a perfect world where everyone is fed and housed and treated equally.
A world where Love is unconditional.
It is a difficult idea for us. The idea that you get what you need not just what you earned. What a different world that would be.
As I have travelled across this country this summer I noticed that every community has a food bank and many have clothing drop offs. If you check the stats you will find that the majority of foodbank users are people with jobs. There is a problem when food banks become a common source of supply. In reality we are just supplementing the companies that don’t want to pay a living wage.
The idea of sharing according to need is not that strange. The early disciples lived in communes where they shared all the supplies. Many cultures like the Inuit had a code of caring based on need. When they killed an animal they all shared it. I had an Inuit friend at one time and he claimed that they only had two vehicles in the settlement and everyone had a key and everyone looked after them.
We do the same thing among friends. We share and we don’t necessarily keep track. Imagine if you were invited to your neighbours for supper and after they handed you a bill. We were at the farm one day when a local farmer needed some fuel to get home. A woman who was visiting went to the house to get a measuring cup so she would know how much to charge him. The rest of us were astounded.
So it is possible to share.
None of us want to see another person starve, so we do care.
The trick is to get this idea of caring and sharing into our economy.
The trick is to get it to be a human economy instead of a financial economy.
We are challenged to reevaluate our system of people’s worth
Maybe the best way to explain this is through Dennis the Menace.
Dennis the Menace and Joey are walking down the street.
Joey says “Why does Mrs Wilson always give us cookies?”
Dennis answers “cause she’ nice – not because we are”
Maybe we can all be as nice as Mrs Wilson.
God, we become overwhelmed with theories and ideologies. We become enmeshed in doctrines and dogmas. We become consumed by philosophies and creeds. Help us to see the humanity underneath. Help us to hear the cries of those trying to not just survive but also to live abundant lives. Help us to bring the Kingdom of heaven here on earth.
For each of us God as we go through struggles, help us to understand the place of faith. Help us to turn to you in our difficult times. Help us to place your love first in our hearts
We pray for all those caught in hard situations. Today we remember those in fires, floods and tornadoes.
We pray now for people who are close to us, we pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever Amen
SERVICE September 20
Etransfer info at bottom of page
Hymn – 427
Scripture Matthew 20: 1-16
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
The Laborers in the Vineyard Matthew 20: 1-16
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage,[a] he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.[b] 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.[c] 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?[d] 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’[e] 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”[f]
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Make the cheque out to:
Churchill United Church
send to Agnes Cole at 226 Valleyview Dr. Churchill, Ont L0L1K0
or Gilford United Church
send to Doris Coborn at 1468 Gilford Rd, Gilford. L0L1R0
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Sermon Equal Pay for Unequal Work