In local school board meetings all over the nation, the discussion of teacher’s salary will come up. Most of the time it is determined that the pay for elementary teachers is far less than they deserve. Sadly, the meeting will end with lamentation over the fact the school district does not have enough money to pay the teachers what they are worth.
On the other end of the spectrum, I often hear parents of college students complaining about the high cost of higher education by saying, “Those college professors get paid far more than they deserve.”
Is a college professor more valuable than a first-grade teacher? A first-grade teacher will teach skills that will not only last a lifetime, such as math and reading but without the skills of first grade, a student could not learn much, if anything, from a professor.
The above is only one example within one employment venue — teaching. When we go across different fields within society, more questions arise.
Is a doctor saving someone’s life by diagnosing the problem and applying an appropriate treatment plan any different than the fireman that pulls someone from a burning building? Both used their skills and knowledge to save a person’s life. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, 69 percent of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers. We all know two out of three doctors do not work for free.
How should pay be determined? Is saving a life the most important thing? If it is; then doctors, law enforcement, firefighters are at the top of the list. What about nurses? What about engineers that develop a car that can stop before it crashes into something? The argument can be made that somewhere along the way that the engineer saved a life or two.
The top earners in the sports and entertainment industries make millions. They do provide people with much entertainment, enjoyment, and an opportunity to forget the trials of life for a few hours here and there. However, I think everyone would agree if someone needed pulling out of that burning building; we would choose the firefighter instead of our favorite recording artist as the next voice we hear.
Does the Bible say anything about wages?
Jesus tells a parable (Matthew 20:1-16) about a man that hires some workers first thing in the morning. Throughout the day the fellow has more hiring calls. In addition to the beginning of the day, he hires people at the third, sixth, ninth and 11th hours of the 12-hour work day. At the end of the day, the boss pays everyone the same; not the same per hour, but the same amount of money. Yes, the people who worked for only an hour were paid the same sum of money as those who worked twelve hours.
As you can imagine this causes quite a stir among the fellows that labored all day. Here is how the Bible records the end of the story (by the way a “penny” in Biblical terms is equal to one day’s wage), “But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”
These are the words of Jesus. Did you notice, Jesus called him, “the goodman of the house”? Also of note, the payment agreement was between the individual employee and the owner. Another thing we can take away from the story is that Jesus believed the owner of the vineyard had the right to pay what he determined to be correct because it was his money to pay.
If this vineyard owner lived in 21st century America, he would need a good lawyer — lawsuits would be flying from everywhere, and he may have broken some labor laws along the way.
The story has a spiritual aspect as well. Some people will serve God from the time they are a child, some surrender to Him as a teen, others still in their adult years and, lastly, there are those that make deathbed confessions of faith. All of them will share in the blessing of heaven equally. Each of them has the same amount of God’s grace, love and redemption applied.
Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Email him: [email protected] Visit his website: Website: www.preacherjohnson.com. All scripture KJV.