I live in an area where there are a lot of day laborers. On any given morning, you can spot them outside a home improvement store, waiting to be picked up for a job — any job. I remember a push from a local community to have a center for day laborers and the firestorm that was set off as a result. Citizens didn’t want their tax dollars spent to help “illegals.” They were staunch in their objection and adamant that their money stay with them.
On Thursday, September 4th, fast-food workers across the country walked out of their jobs to protest low wages and poor working conditions. These workers wanted, among other things, a raise in the minimum wage that would enable them to take care of their families. Their detractors held that if fast food workers’ wages go up, then so should everyone else’s — thereby negating the narrowing of the income (and opportunity) gap that a raise in the minimum wage would address.
It seems sometimes that we don’t like for others to have more unless we, too, have more. When is enough really enough for us? When I read this week’s selections, I see both a reassurance of God’s provision and an admonition to solidarity in struggle. We are being called to both recognize and be content with the “enough.”
The Exodus 16:2-15 account of the divinely-provided quail and manna first informs of the complaints of the Israelites. They yearned for death in Egypt, because at least then they would have died with food in their bellies. What a smack in the face to the God to whom they prayed for deliverance from those very people! Here we have an inordinate concern for what someone else has.
In Matthew 20:1-16’s story of the day laborers, we’ve got those who are upset that the latecomers are getting the same wages as the early risers. Why don’t I deserve more? Once again, we’re concerned with what someone else has.
My generation is often criticized as the most entitled generation in history. There may be some truth to that, but I would argue that American/Western society as a whole shares this disease. I believe this week we’re being challenged to question our entitlement. We’re reminded that none of what we have is a result of our own goodness, but is instead due to the goodness of the Giver. Paul encourages the Philippian church to stand “firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” He reminds them — and us — that there are real enemies out there and bigger fish to fry. And he would later go on to tell them that, because Christ strengthens him, he can be content with what he has and in whatever situation he may find himself.
Nothing kills community quicker than when we start to ignore the “enough.”
What threads are you seeing in this week’s readings? Where is Spirit leading you in the preaching of these texts?