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Sunday Night Live Sermons

COMMITTED TO THE UNEMPLOYED

Megatrends That Have Guided Us

Matthew 20:1-16
18th September 2005

This week some Church spokespersons warned the Federal Government that the planned shake-up of the welfare system will make it hard to find work for the increased number of people looking for jobs. The Government plans that single parents with children aged six or over and at school, will be expected to look for work or be transferred to unemployment benefits with a special extra allowance while they look for work. People with disabilities assessed as being capable of working 15 hours a week or more will be expected to do so. In other words, the Government believes everyone who is capable, should be working and not dependent upon welfare. The incapacitated, the aged, the ill and the disabled, will be supported as usual.

Wesley Mission, knows getting people into work is difficult but quite possible. We are committed to the unemployed, because we know the benefits to people if they can make their own way in life, if they can be independent of welfare, if they have the dignity of paying tax, if they have the discipline of getting up and getting out of the house, if they have the benefit of more money than any welfare benefit. We have been involved in helping the unemployed since 1892 when we had a Department of Labour Exchange and taught every man attending here how to mend his own boots. Today Wesley Mission provides programs finding jobs for unemployed people; bridging the gap between crisis and employment; providing work experience for the longer-term unemployed, and offering assistance to parents, mature-age job-seekers and carers who are returning to work after an absence of two or more years.

We have 171 staff in 58 locations. Last year we placed 14,074 individuals into permanent employment but assisted 65,442 towards employment. This work cost $49,565,855, the largest commitment to helping the unemployed of any church anywhere in the world. Old hymnbooks included hymns such as “Work for time is flying, work with hearts sincere” and “Fill brightest hours with labour, rest comes sure and soon.” Our parents worked 48 hours a week, worked on Saturdays, planted vegetables in their garden, did everything by hand, walked to church three times a Sunday and sang “Work For the Night is coming.” Today people work part time, half of us have our incomes provided by the Government, we drive everywhere, go to church only occasionally, watch much television and sing, “Art Thou weary, art thou languid.

At Wesley Mission we are concerned that all who want to work are adequately skilled and enabled to get work. We train thousands of people for work in aged care, social welfare, creative arts, disabilities, childcare, literacy and numeracy, office administration, tourism, sales, hospitality, childcare, horticulture, landscaping, nursing and other industries. We pray for jobs then help people get them! I asked some of our managers this week to describe some of their clients. At Ballina, in September 2004, we placed Adrian, who had been unemployed for over four years on a Macadamia Farm. Adrian’s personal presentation was poor, his employment history was scant; he had no driving licence or transport and had been living in a rural area without public transport. Adrian couldn’t read.

But by October 2004 the farm manager was so impressed with Adrian’s initiative and reliability he was providing transport to and from work and looking for ways of increasing Adrian’s skills. Wesley funded a Chain saw certificate course which ensured ongoing tree pruning work through summer when macadamia farms generally reduce staff. In April 2005 he was permanently employed and we were approached by the farm manager requesting help on gaining a full time traineeship for Adrian in farm management. Adrian is allowed time off for his literacy and numeracy tuition on full pay which will ensure he can successfully complete a horticulture certificate.

Kevin came in July 2003. He had poor literacy and numeracy, had an addiction problem and was in the wrong crowd. He hated job interviews. He lived with his grandmother. Kevin decided to do Certificate 11 Automotive at TAFE College. At first he did not attend and a concerned teacher rang. Our staff encouraged him and one of the TAFE teachers offered to pick up everyday. He did work experience at a large car dealership. His supervisor advised Kevin would be an asset to the industry. Kevin completed his course but his grandmother died. So we arranged housing. We contacted State Debt Recovery and arranged for repayment of traffic fines. We helped Kevin regain his licence and tax file number. We contacted a local employer outlining Kevin’s enthusiasm, his completion of the course and his favourable work experience. Kevin is now working as an apprentice mechanic and is extremely happy.

Treaci is an unemployed single mother of four. She needed coaching in interview technique. We provided basic job search supports like petrol, clothing, a haircut and a security course and licence. With that help Treaci got a job as a Security Officer with Bunnings Warehouse where she has been employed for three months. She wrote a testimonial letting us know she would not have achieved it without Wesley’s support. Andrew is single man with Bells palsy. He lived in a caravan with debt collectors after him. Wesley paid for him to attend a motivational course. We purchased him interview clothes and he got a job with Repco and is still there 12 months later. He now lives in a house on which he has put a deposit, has a lady friend and is due to complete Certificate IV in Business at TAFE and has bought his first car.

Sharon is a 35 year-old single parent caring for two disabled children. When she came to us she had not worked since 1996. Her daughter has cystic fibrosis & her son has learning difficulties. We got her a job with an employer for 20 hours a week who had been a sole parent herself and so understood that productive flexibility could be achieved with the right employee. Sharon has now been working for six months and is employed on a permanent part-time basis. Both employer and Sharon are extremely happy with this outcome. Catherine is a 41 year-old single woman with health problems which prevented her from working. She decided to explore self-employment in the fashion retail industry and with assistance from Wesley was able to establish her own business and has now taken on an employee. Catherine has been self-supporting in her business for over 6 months and says she could not have done it without the help of Wesley Mission.

In one of Jesus’ most amazing parables He turns our normal reactions upside down. People need to work for the status, significance, satisfaction and income work provides. Unemployment has devastating consequences. The value of working, earning, saving and spending your own money is central to your sense of self-worth. Jesus saw the value of initiative and independence obtained by earning your way through life instead of depending upon others. Jesus believed everyone has a right to work. He worked as a carpenter to keep his widowed mother, four younger brothers and an unknown number of sisters in the home at Nazareth, from the time He was a teenager. Matt 13:55. He saw the unemployed hanging round the marketplace as they hang round shopping malls today. Jesus pictured God like a kindly owner of a vineyard: Matt 13:1–7”For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the market place doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “’Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’” Jesus believed everyone has a right to adequate pay. The owner negotiated with the first people employed to be paid the right rate for a full day’s work. Then He insisted that everyone who worked be given a day’s pay even if they had worked for much less.

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”’

Of course they were envious! At grape harvest, the hours were right, from dawn to sunset. The day’s pay was right. His employer sees the one-hour workers would have not enough money for their evening meal. So he gives them what they need. God cares for the unemployed. He seeks them out. He wants them to have work. Jesus says people to have a right to work and to pay. We may be peeved that latecomers are also paid at the flat rate, but many unions now insist this is fair! On a spiritual level Jesus wants us to understand that being in the Kingdom of God — whether early arrivals or late — is solely because of the grace of God. “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

None of us can enter the Kingdom of God by human merit. We enter the Kingdom of God by the sheer unmerited favour of God. Any good works we do, are grateful responses, appreciative of God’s generosity. Everything depends upon God’s grace. Our status in the church, our length of membership and long hours of toil in the heat of the day constitute no claim on God and are no reason why God should not be generous to others who have done less. In the light of history all of us are newcomers. Grace, amazing grace, is the heart of this story. All of us are equally undeserving of God’s blessing. All of us are equal in the Kingdom of God. No study we have done, no achievements we have obtained, no status we have accomplished makes us one bit more acceptable in the eyes of God. And no former sin, no previous wickedness, no earlier lapse, now repented of and forgiven, pushes us one inch away from Him.

If you are an employer, God is your model. Treat your employees with equity. Ensure they get their entitlements. Pay them a just wage. If you are unemployed, go to the market where you can get a job. Seek a Wesley Employment consultant who, without charge, will help you. Go to work, even it is not your first preference. Go to work even if it is part time. Then work honestly. God rewards and blesses us on the basis of our motives, desires, spirit, attitude, love, faith and prayer in proportion to our capacity. None of us can claim we deserve to be in His Kingdom. There is no room for pride, for peevishness or jealousy of others. Our relationship with God is based upon the quality of our relationship with Him not the quantity of it. That is good news! Get right with God in a changing world, and let Him change you!

Gordon Moyes

REFERENCES

  • Sydney Morning Herald Welfare plan a trap. Stephanie Peatling September 16, 2005

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.