What is a person worth?


This is my post for tomorrow, September 17th. As with the others, if you wish to use parts of this or the other posts, please let me know at TonyMitchellPhD@optimum.net

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The greatest disaster of this month was not the devastation that Hurricane Katrina wreaked on the Gulf Coast of the United States; it was what the people of the United States have done to the residents of the Gulf Coast.Now some will say that it was the New Orleans city government that failed; some will say that it was the Louisiana state government that failed; and some will say that it was the Federal government that failed.All did but all of these political bodies were elected by the people; it is the people who failed.

Now I know and I am aware that many individuals took upon themselves to begin rescue operations.Many individuals ignored the restraints put on them by all of the government bodies and went ahead and did what had to be done.But, from the very moment that it was clear that this was a disaster in process, how many people thought only of themselves and what they needed to do.Did anyone stop to think about the others who might not get out?

The Israelites began their journey, the Exodus, out of Egypt not with rejoicing and celebration but with complaining.First, as the Egyptian army bore down on them, they complained that they were going to be killed on the battlefield, not in their beds.Then, when they got hungry, they complained that Moses was going to cause them to die of hunger in the desert.In the saga of the Exodus, they then complained about the lack of water.Each time, God saved them.

First, he helped the Israelites cross the Red Sea and then drowned the Egyptian army in the same waters.Then, in today’s Old Testament Reading, he feeds the Israelites with manna from heaven.We could continue this reading and note that God, through Moses, warns the people to take only what they need and no more.Those that are greedy will find that the bread they gathered up but did not consume will rot overnight.The people learned early in the journey across the desert that God’s word is true and one should listen to it.And when it is time to observe the Sabbath, God tells the people to take enough for two days.But not everyone listened and, thus, they went hungry.

Jesus is making the same point in his parable about the laborers.In God’s eyes, we are all the same.Yes, in today’s world, those who work an eight-hour shift should receive more than those who only work two hours.But, in this parable, all those who work in the vineyard know that they will receive the same wage for their efforts.They have to realize that in this case, it does not matter whether one works two hours or a full day.But I think that we can say that if we are all equal in God’s eyes, then the rewards for our efforts should be equal, if we do equal amounts of works.If we choose, and that is the key, then we should not expect the same.

Hurricane Katrina did not differentiate between rich and poor, healthy and sick, those who had shelter and those who did not; the people did.And it continues, even after this devastating hurricane has gone.Those who have are able to survive and those who did not have still suffer.The politics that existed before somehow still survived the storm and we read of no-bid contracts, the removal of fair wage requirements and a lack of concern for environmental considerations.

We have all come to see that there is a great divide in this country, between the poor and the rich.It is somehow reminiscent of the economic divide that drove John Wesley to ask if the church cared for all of God’s children.

John Wesley looked at poverty as an evil to be eliminated through every allowable means, not as a necessary consequence of culpable failure on the part of the poor, or as the unavoidable fate of those excluded from God’s election. He constantly investigated the causes of poverty, encouraged and applauded diligent labor, and strove to awaken in the rich and influential a sense of responsibility for eliminating social evils. Wesley vigorously opposed injustice and dedicated himself to seek the welfare of the poor.

God’s love for all people became the cardinal point of ethics, and indeed for the whole Christian life, which is described in Wesley’s belief in perfection. To put into practice this “love for all people,” Wesley initiated various activities toward self-help and charitable deeds to relieve their distress. He encouraged his classes to collect funds, food, clothing, fuel, and medicine and health care for distribution to the poor.

Yet, those who had the ability to help often times turned against Wesley and the early Methodist reformers.What would Wesley say today, with the divisions between economic status so great and now so visible?  What would Wesley say today with the growth of the mega-churches and the “feel good” gospel message many pastors preach?What would Wesley say to a pastor who wears a $2,000 suit when he himself let his hair grow long so that the money he saved could be given to the poor?  

What lies before us is a chance to change the direction that we are headed.God has shown throughout the ages what He can do; God has also shown what He will not do.Some will say that 9/11 and Katrina were God’s work, to show us His anger at the sin that we have allowed to envelope our country.But the ones who make such claims are among those who judge others before acting.I have said and written it before and I will do so again.If God has the ability to take us away in the moment of rapture, as some claim that he does, then God has the ability to wipe out the sinners among us with one quick swipe of his terrible swift sword.

Perhaps God allowed 9/11and Katrina to happen because he wanted to give us another chance to follow him—and not in words, but in deeds.

Here is a chance to show that we really do want to belong to him; that we really do love our neighbors as ourselves and are willing to lay down our lives for our friends. Are we ready for the challenge? I hope so.

After 9/11, we said we would never let things go back to normal. In a way, they haven’t. But for most of us, daily life has gone on as usual. That became clear in the wake of Katrina. Our first concern, judging by the headlines, was how the hurricane had affected oil production and other commodities. Only after that did we begin to address the tremendous need of half a million shattered lives. (Adapted from http://www.bruderhof.com/articles/jca/Gods-Trumpet.htm?source=DailyDig for 16 Sept 2005)

What is a person worth?What shall be the value of our lives if we, as Paul writes to the Philippians, live to the flesh?Paul said to live one’s life in a manner worthy of the Gospel.The Gospel message is one of care for the poor, the sick, the homeless, and the oppressed.It is not about becoming wealthy, it is not about exclusion or rejection of those you think are not worthy of concern.Our lives today should what a person’s worth is, not what they are worth.Our lives today should be about caring about others, not caring only about ourselves.Then, the Gospel message of Christ will be fulfilled here on earth, as it is in heaven.

3 thoughts on “What is a person worth?

  1. Thank you Tony for opening up your comments to non-blogger accounts.

    I feel a bit out of my league here. I read the post yesterday (thanks to locusts and honey – doesn’t he do a good job of pointing us to interesting posts ? and keeping us up dated on what’s happening in the methodist world. For me that’s pretty important. The Finnish UMC is far away and at times we feel very isolated. At least I do. But I digress

    This post made me think a lot. I liked the link between Exodus and the mad rush exit from NewOrleans. I did wonder if any of those who rushed out were made to feel shame and guilt when/if they read/heard this … because to do that is to miss the point (though the enemy loves to fill us with numbing shame!) The point was – I think to learn from our attitudes and actions.

    Your post also made me think of Jonah. God wanted to give both him and the city he didn’t want to be forgiven Ninevah a second chance – a new slate.

    What I found intriging was your link to the ‘fair wages parable’. it’s one most westerners find difficult, perhaps particularly in the the USA where the mentality that GOd helps those who help themselves seems to be so prevalent (forgive me if I’m wrong in this)

    I read recently (in a work I’ve been doing on Paul – but I didn’t use it so can’t remember where I read it -grrrrrrrr) that we Christians actually are the eleventh hour workers – receiving the full inheritance -eternity with the Father because of Jesus. That made me think A LOT.

    All that Jesus did – I benefited from – without earning it or deserving it, without it being fair … I accept it gratefully and wish His fruits of love, patience, self control would be more evident in my life.

    If they were I/we would not only think about the poor who were in danger of drowning in New Orleans I /we would have stopped to help get them out. I/we would have put faith into action.

    We can still do so. What’s more -like Jonah – we can repent and obey God more. But with a good heart.

    Phew (I wrote too much sorry!)

  2. For those that follow this sort of thing, this “blog” was chosen as “Best of the Methodist Blogsphere for the week of September 19, 2005

  3. Pingback: Who Shall Feed My Sheep? « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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