I was scrolling through my news feed over the Labor Day weekend and came across this headline: “Former actor job-shamed for working at Trader Joe’s.” A shopper in New Jersey recognized one of the cashiers at her local store as Geoffrey Owens, an actor from a wildly popular sitcom in the 1980s. She snapped and posted a few pictures. An online news outlet picked up the photos and ran the following headline: “From learning lines to serving the long line!” The story was condescending in its treatment of Mr. Owens, commenting on his hourly wage (certainly far less than he made at the height of his celebrity) to the condition of his staff t-shirt, no doubt stained from his labors that day.
Readers quickly came to Mr. Owens defense. The online comments applauded him for his work ethic, while rightly chastising the news outlet. But it was Mr. Owens’ humble and restrained response which showed the true measure of his character. Recognizing that the story would fade away with the next news cycle, he hoped that his experience would be a reminder of the dignity of work and the worker. He said, “There is no job that is better than another job. It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper, but actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” Well said, Mr. Owens and a timely message for Labor Day.
Even in a society such as ours which proclaims the equality of all, we’re still susceptible to making distinctions among ourselves, valuing some over others based on where we live or the kind of work we do.
This is how the woman who sleeps on a bench in Del Mar becomes invisible while Kim Kardashian claims 60 million Twitter followers. The letter of James, which we will hear for the next few weeks, speaks directly to this failing of the human heart and it does not mince words – show no partiality. (Jas 2:1) To do so is a sin. Ouch! The words sting. Further along, the writer reminds us of the great commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Jas 2:8; Matt 22:39)
Don’t we all want to be loved and valued for who we are as human beings – as children of God? Geoffrey Owens reminded us of that.