Proper 6(11), Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
17 June 2018
1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
It was in June of 1992 that Jackie and I came back to Canada. We moved to Saskatoon where I would complete my theological studies. We were young and had little money saved, and no jobs we were coming to, and we weren’t going to last long without a job.
But we trusted that God would provide.
I don’t know that I understood that I had moved from a high wage country (one of my previous summer jobs had been at a Mercedes plant) to a country with much lower wages and so in my head I had decided that I would not accept a job for less than $10.00/hour.
God was good to us. Jackie, having earned an Bachelor of Education at UVic, found full-time employment at the UofS Student Union day care, I found part-time work at a warehouse, and lo and behold, the warehouse paid just over $10.00/hour.
But there was a catch. They had hired maybe sixty guys (we were all guys) when they only needed thirty, and so after every shift we would be assembled at the supervisor’s office and some were told that they need not come back the next day. It was made clear to us that being let go at the end of a shift had everything to do with productivity, it was all about weeding out the sick.
I made the cut but I remember my fear of not making it, for while it was not my full-time career, we depended on the income. The fear to be told I need not come back motivated me to meet the productivity expectations of management. And I know that my fear sounds like a contradiction of our trust in God, but we all live with contradictions.
Making the cut did, however, not build any loyalty, and when I did overtime I did so not because I identified with the company but only because I needed the money. The next summer when hours were spread out over even more employees I left for another job without regret.
However, when I was first hired, fear was my motivator.
Maybe this fits into the picture that is often painted of capitalism, namely, that everything we do aims at somehow creating benefit for ourselves. The proto-capitalist Adam Smith wrote in “Wealth of the Nations”, that “every individual intends only his own gain, …” and is, “led by an invisible hand … By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it.” He rephrases this in these famous words, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”
Smith was no economist but rather a philosopher and often, I think, his reflection has been taken out of context. It is only the greatest extremes that emphasize laissez–faire economics. Most societies, while working with people’s self-interest, also hold to taxation and regulation as a way of aiming economic activity to benefit all. And yet, if we are to look at people’s motivations, self-interest must be among them.
A third motivator for people is recognition. You see the reason that fear as a motivator was effective only in the short-term had to do with the fact that once you had made it through your probationary period you were safe. And yet at the same time you remembered that the company did not care about individuals but only about productivity.
What you wanted though, was a sense of belonging, then you would agree to do overtime not simply for the pay but you wanted to identify with the company and the way you learned to identify was that people expressed their appreciation, and would ask you personally whether you were able to stay and help out.
Recently there have been studies that suggest that pay motivates people only in regards to mechanical tasks, like increasing your hourly wage by doing the paper route as fast as you can.
But what people are really interested in is autonomy, mastery, and purpose.1
Autonomy has to do with trust.
Mastery is the desire to get better at things.
And purpose is that what we do somehow makes sense and fits into a larger whole.
Wage is only important in as far as you want to pay people enough for them not to have to worry about it and thus can focus their energy on their work.
In our reading from 2 Corinthians Paul makes the case for his ministry. Our passage ends with Paul’s wonderful assertion that being in Christ changes us profoundly, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” After our reading the passage continues to talk about reconciliation being the ministry of the church, for God has reconciled us to Godself in Christ.
In the middle of our reading Paul speaks about his own motivation, “the love of Christ urges us on”. Paul is not motivated by fear, if he were he would have quit after beatings and imprisonment. He is not motivated by affirmation (though his correspondence with the Thessalonians shows that he is not immune to it), but his ministry has not always been successful. At times is was laboured and sometimes, at least at the very beginning, he had nothing to show for.
And finally, it seems that Paul is not motivated by self-interest, for he continues to support himself through his trade as tent-maker, and he has not been appointed bishop or cardinal, and he will never assume the office of St Peter.
Paul’s motivation is nothing short of remarkable.
He travels for nothing, he visits congregations that are fragile and cantankerous, he faces opposition and persecution, and he preaches to a world that has never heard the message of the Gospel, his only reference points are the Jewish scriptures.
Paul’s ministry witnesses to the assertion that purpose may be our biggest motivator. Paul certainly sees himself as participating in God’s purposes of healing, reconciliation, renewal. Paul is short on perks but big on meaning.
And yet it seems that purpose alone cannot explain what is happening here. You can have a profound sense of purpose but may end up resigning if you faced as much adversity as Paul did. Paul, however, had entered into the mystery of Christ, he had died with Christ and rose with Christ. Through Jesus he shared in the life of God. And so Paul can say that he is motivated not by affirmation, or fear, or gain, but by love.
Love is in fact the marker of sainthood. Anyone we and the tradition would consider a saint is marked by an altruistic love that made them prevail against the odds.
Now, we believe in the sainthood of all believers, and with Paul we know that we have died and risen with Christ, we know we are the new creation, and so, the love of God lives in us also, is what can and does motivate us in the things we do and even when things are hard, because we are in Christ and we are the new creation.