What do you do for a living? Many occupations are represented in our church. Some of the jobs done by our members include, nurse, dentist, accountant, researcher, teacher, custodian, health aide, student, writer, therapist, retiree, landscaping, environmental planning, lab worker, cabinet maker, lawyer, retail, business manager, professor, realtor, homemaker, engineer, waitstaff, personal trainer, Air Force Chaplain, and many, many more.
People in the Bible did many jobs. I will write the occupation and see if you can name one or more who did that job. Shepherd, poet, musician, priest, tax collector, farmer, herdsman, metal worker, student, king, tentmaker, carpenter and of course, fisherman.
These are some among many. God calls a whole range of people to carry out his will. He did then in Bible times and he does today in the church.
What matters is that no job is too lowly. All jobs matter. Martin Luther was adamant about the value of our work. Luther wrote, “…the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks…all works are measured before God by faith alone.” We owe it to Mike Rowe for his TV show which exalts the people who do, “Dirty Jobs,” recognizing the value of all honest work. Each episode begins, “I explore the country looking for people who aren't afraid to get dirty — hard-working men and women who earn an honest living doing the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us. Now, get ready to get dirty.” In the first chapter of First Corinthians we read, “26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”
Does this mean we are not supposed to aspire to high goals? That would be foolish. In fact, yesterday we read the parable of the talents where the master expected his servants to take what he had entrusted to them and get the best return on them. God has given us gifts to be put to work to glorify him.
Rather, the point of this is the value of each person. The lunch room lady in the school is just as important and valuable as the Superintendent of Schools. The teller in the bank is just as important as the bank president. The worker on the assembly line is just as important as the CEO. It is not an exaggeration to say that this view of human value and dignity is at the heart of the American experiment in democracy where everyone matters and everyone gets one vote.
Today’s front-line workers are the most important and active positions in a job or industry. They’re in the zones where conflict and interactions are most likely to happen—on sales and manufacturing floors, in customer service departments, behind store counters; they’re the on-the scene news reporters covering developing stories, teachers in classrooms, and sports teams’ defensive lines. What front-line workers do—how they engage with customers, how they perform in their jobs—contribute directly to an organization’s success or failure. This is not always recognized. In the book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, 1982, the value of the front line worker is lifted up. Successful enterprises value human being. Productivity comes from treating employees with respect and giving them a sense that they are important. Their input is valuable. Also – and this is critical for us in the church – successful companies are values driven and the history of the corporation is known and held in esteem. History and tradition are remembered with stories and a commonly held sense of values.
I write this for you to value what you do and to encourage you to take Luther’s view that all jobs are “holy” in the sense that they are a contribution to society and the world. I also write to us as a reminder never, ever to look down on someone because of what they do. We are learning in this pandemic that people doing menial jobs such as stocking shelves, cleaning floors and bathrooms, caring for the infirm, driving delivery vehicles are just as valuable as everyone and in fact we have given them a new, honorable title, “Essential Worker.”
We also honor those who cannot work. I am thinking of the group home residents who we treasure to have in our congregation. People matter. Everyone is made in the image of God and beloved by him.
That is our unapologetic message to the world in the name of Jesus.
Let us pray, Help us Lord not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, believing we are better than others. Help us to respect and honor the work we do and to dedicate our labor to you. Help us to lead the way in honoring all men and women. Thanks for each other! And we pray for your protection for those who jobs bring them closer to danger in this time of pandemic. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.