15 February 2019 — Sixth Friday after Epiphany

Ecclesiastes 2:18–3:8, Matthew 20:1–16, 1 Peter 1:17–2:1

There is a movement afoot for people to enjoy their work. Younger people are throwing off the chains of previous generations that did work they did not enjoy so that they could support their families. This is not to say that previous generations were wrong, but that many younger people are now blessed to be able to do what they love. There are those that still labor in thankless, joyless jobs to support their families. There are those that are/were blessed to truly enjoy what they do/did. Everyone in that position, regardless of age, lift your voice in praise and gratefulness.

In the time when Ecclesiastes was written, most people labor and didn’t enjoy what they labored at. Much later, American Puritanism took the duty of labor to provide for the family and added religious obligations to it. Later still, American consumerism has twisted this even further to where people work on their “vacations” or put off family and social connections for the sake of work. Many companies are now as much consumers of workers as their workers are of products. While the labor of Ecclesiastes was hard and often thankless, it was accepted as the way things were. This is in comparison today when many company work cultures have come to a place where the expectation is that people ought to be thankful that the work is hard, thankless, and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

That’s not what Jesus taught about the Father. In the parable of the laborers, the landowner went out 5 times to gather workers. The eager, ambitious (and probably starving) ones were there bright and early. The as the day goes by, there are still more laborers who either didn’t respond the first time or didn’t even bother to show up any earlier. And the ones called last may have well already worked another job before getting a second one. We don’t know the state of any of these workers. We do know who called them. Who are we to judge who worked the hardest or longest for the kingdom? How many baskets of grapes did each pick? It doesn’t matter. The landlord, like God, cared that they showed up and that they worked.

That they showed up and worked is important when reading Peter’s letter. Peter starts out with the Father judging impartially according to their work. That sounds ominous. What if you look at another person who seems to be working harder than you, and is certainly more successful than you are working for the kingdom? What if, instead, you are looking at someone who seems to be working less hard than you, and producing less fruit for the kingdom? The landlord paid the workers the same.

God “paid” each of us the same. He “paid” with his Son. Through the sacrificial act of Jesus in his life and death, the penalty of our sins is gone. No matter when we gave ourselves to Jesus, we all get “paid” the same. Now what?

1) In this context, obedience and work are equivalent. So, then what does Peter say our behavioral response should be?

2) The drive to work, consume, and sustain is good. Yet, when contaminated by sin it is bad. How does Peter define this sin contamination? How are you doing in ridding yourself of it all?

3) The work we do on earth can be exhausting. The work we do for the Kingdom shouldn’t be but often is. What can we do to not be tired?

FD) Is it fair that the laborers were paid the same amount even though they didn’t work the same amount of time? Why or why not?