Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Dignity of Work

Matthew 20: 1-16

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 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?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 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.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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.’ 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? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Aparigraha – Nonpossessiveness

You might think that based on the yama chosen above that I would like to discuss the Nonpossessiveness of the Landowner.  Certainly, he was very giving with his money.  Not clinging to it like a miser or doling it out based on the work performed.  He instead in this story choses to treat everyone as an equal and pay all the same for their contribution. Perhaps he was feeling a bit like Oprah, “You get a day’s pay and you get a day’s pay!” His reasons are unimportant, his financial detachment is obvious.

But what about the workers? I wonder if any of them felt like I do right now.  I’m tired. I’m grieving. I’m busy. I’m spent. Today I arrive at 5 o’clock. But I still want to help. My contribution may not be as big as someone that is fresh and vibrant in the morning.  But is it any less valuable?  Isn’t there something to be said for the dignity of work, no matter how big or small?  We all contribute. We all move this world forward.  It doesn’t matter if you are the President of the United States or a beggar on the street corner, we all have something to contribute to this world. Our challenge is much like the day workers in the story.  Find our Aparigraha, Nonpossessiveness, and understand that there is dignity in the contribution of each person no matter how big or how small.



PHOTO CREDIT: Fusco, Paul, photographer. "[Migrant pea pickers (woman and child), Delano, California.] 1966. Look Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Collection, Library of Congress.


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