Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Internal Ethic

On Sunday I was listening to a sermon on Matthew 20 - the parable of the workers in the vineyard who worked for different lengths of time, but were all paid the same. This sermon was in the context of Saturday having been Workers' Day. It was a very interesting sermon - mostly because it was in Zulu, which allowed me to pick up hints of what the preacher was saying and let my own thoughts do the rest.
I know that what I am thinking has been thought many times before, but still, there must be an answer.
There is enough 'earth' for us all to have enough to eat. Yet resources are distributed unevenly. We all have areas of ability (talents or skills) to offer each other. Why can't we all just work in our areas of strength and be paid the same amount? It seems to me I'd rather work as a computer person (which is skilled) than as a manual labourer. So I appreciate the manual labourer who does a job that I cannot really do. I'd be happy to get the same pay. Also, if someone is disabled and incapable of working a full day, let him or her do the best they can and get the same pay.
Unfortunately, we don't all have the same internal ethic. Too many people will say that if I get paid the same amount regardless of the amount of work that I do, then I will do as little as possible. So the system breaks down. But why can't it work in the church? Or amongst Christians in general? The fact is that even amongst Christians that internal ethic seems to be missing. What does that say about us? About the Holy Spirit? About our faith?
If there really are enough resources to go around, I wonder what the average monthly pay would be if it was equalised across the world?


Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,

I noticed you tagged this under Theology so I don't think I'd offend you to ask this question.

Does Matthew 20 have anything to do with the points you are now pondering?

If it does, how so? If it doesn’t, how was it preached?

Is this an edifying question?

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Mark - yes it is a very good question. It was also the first thing that went through my mind when the preacher began - surely this passage relates to how God will reward us at the end of time and that whenever you come to God, it's not too late (is that summary ok?) But now, I've been taught in many ways to think about contextual theology. Does this preacher have the right to determine the meaning of the passage according to his own worldview, or not? I actually don't know what he said . . . my mind went off on my own thoughts, which were triggered by Matthew 20, but were more along the lines of 'what if Jesus did intend us to take this literally?' So Matthew 20 was just a trigger. But for some people, I think it would be theology - and maybe rightly so!

Anonymous said...

If, in 2010, by leveraging Contextual Theology, one could say that Matthew 20 rightly supports Socialism of sorts then could one justifiably say that in 1976, Philemon rightly supported Apartheid?

The Bible wasn’t written to Allegorically prop up the flavour of the day was it? Surely this text was written as an analogy of Salvation, should be interpreted as an analogy of Salvation and should be applied as an analogy of Salvation?

Oh my, that was a stronger response than I initially intended.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Mark - I don't think it's too strong, because I agree with what you are saying. But there is more to it than that. I'm not sure how Philemon can be used to support apartheid - I must have missed something there. Slavery perhaps. How would contemporary readers of Paul have seen his views on slavery? Do we see it differently today?
But let me not get sidetracked. For me, there are eternal truths. Like Jesus saves by grace through faith. God has used the Bible to communicate these truths to us - often through stories. In some amazing way, this has allowed the Bible to speak to humanity over thousands of years, unlike any other piece of literature. It blows my mind that some guy reading in the fifth century can read the same Bible as me and somehow get to pretty much the same eternal truths. But he does (did?)
I also reckon that you don't need a theological degree to understand the Bible. I think study makes the picture clearer, but God's word is for all. It has to be, otherwise it's like Christianity is only for the really special/ clever/ whatever. So a labourer can pick up the Bible and come to the same eternal truths as I do - awesome.
But I don't deny that people can also produce some really awful understandings of God by misunderstanding scripture. So we listen and think. But I really do believe that God can speak to us in our different contexts through the Bible - the actual journey may vary, but the destination should be the same.
Maybe I should post on this - a bit long! But feel free to comment on what I've said.