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?
6 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: When Is Enough Really Enough?”
There is an article about how “enough” is not being practiced with our military budgets – the giving away of guns, vehicles and body armor to police departments (who may or may not need to it, depending on your politics) and the re-stocking whenever a new conflict arises and the supply has been given away. Interesting.
As a former defense contractor, I saw first-hand how much waste there is in defense spending. The DoD could significantly trim its budget without ever having to touch military pay, benefits, and pensions.
I’m using the OT reading from Jonah, with the Matthew 20 reading and Psalm 145. The theme that’s been jumping out at me is “God is not fair – thanks be to God!” If God were fair and we always got exactly what we deserved, God would not be that gracious and merciful Spirit we love. Your reflections help me with the next step of my message – instead of “God’s not fair, why not?” the question is “We have enough, why are we not satisfied?” Thanks for the insight.
Thank you for yours! Can I “steal” it for my own sermon? 😉
I’m using the Exodus reading along with John 6 where Jesus says “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Juxtaposing our physical hunger with spiritual hunger, and our need for God moments that renew our souls. In the past I have bagged on the Israelites for being whiners, but I’m changing my tune. God invites us to cry out to him about our needs. When Israel did, God fed them. When they stopped crying out to God, then they got in trouble (Amos 5:4, Jer 33:3). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”….or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” So that’s where I’m headed, I think, and maybe we’ll wrap it up with How Great Thou Art…”…then sings my soul…”
Thanks for the inspiration!!