Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Workers in the lemon field

Some people say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, the age-old adage does not tell you what to do when life squirts lemon juice in your eye.

I recently got some discouraging news; thankfully, not tragic news, but, discouraging none-the-less.  It is news that puts our family in a bit of a financial pinch and feels a bit like a slap in the face. 

I am guessing you have also received news like this in the past.  Let’s give ourselves a few minutes to enjoy a pity party.  No, those are not tears in my eye, just lemon juice.

Okay, it is time to put on our big girl panties and move on.

God will provide for my family.  And if it takes an extra semester to finish my degree, then I will work from the assumption that this is part of God’s plan.  The question for me is why does this event feel like betrayal? Why do I feel like I have been cast aside along with all of my hard work? Why do I feel that evidence of my past good work should have prevented this from happening?

Hmmm, I am thinking the odds are good that this comes down to a sinful flaw.  I am a sinner, after all.

I have been reading and thinking about the story from Matthew 20 about the workers in the field.  The owner of the field recruited workers five times over the course of the day.  Some workers labored all day in the hot sun, some worked about an hour, but they all received the same pay. Harder work, better work, longer work, or even a good report from the supervisor (or, perhaps in my case, good student evaluations); none of it made a difference. There was no reward; just pay for honest work.

I seemed to find myself caught up in the earthly idea of extrinsic motivation. If I work hard, life will give back. If I follow the rules and keep my nose to the grindstone, I will be rewarded and that will make me want to work all the harder.

Hmm, this extrinsic motivation stuff is not working for me.  Moreover, it does not leave much room for faith.

Here is another passage about laborers:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38, ESV)

It would be a mistake to read into this verse that God needs us to do His work.  God is God; He does not need anything.  In fact, when we come in as laborers, we just muck things up.  

God does not need us; we need Him. We need to be a part of God’s family and His ministry. We need His mercy and grace.  We need forgiveness and faith.  Even if we work all day, in the hot sun, and find there is no money at the end of the pay line, we still get what we need.

“For we are God’s fellow workers.  You are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9, ESV)

This is God’s message to me, today.  I am on His staff.  He graciously gives me work to do.  He blesses that work.  He cares for me. 

No earned reward, just perfect love and loyalty. 

Thank you, God!

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