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Sermon illustrations

Ownership

The Difference Between an Employee and a Partner

What’s the difference between an employee and a partner? In one word — ownership. One of my first jobs was as a barista at this place called Coffee People. It was the anti-Starbucks of the late ’90s. This grassroots, Portland-based, locally roasted, stick-it-to-the-man café was the closest thing to third wave before there was a third wave.

Once in a while I would be sitting there, bored out of my mind, and then all of the sudden twenty or thirty people would all walk in at once. We called it “the rush.” The rush was an adrenaline junkie’s dream. It was hectic, loud, stressful, go-go-go. And it was hard work.

Anybody who’s worked in the service industry knows about the rush and knows that employees usually complain and gripe about it. Because if you’re an employee, you’re only there to get a paycheck, and you get the same pay whether it’s busy or slow. You just wanna put in your time and go home. But if you’re a partner, if you have ownership, then everything is different. You work the same job, but harder. The same shift, but longer. And you’re on top of the world. When the door opens and a dozen people tumble in with somewhere to be in a hurry, you think to yourself, Sweet.

Garden City, Zondervan, 2015, pp.64-65.

Everything is Required?

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord,” reads Leviticus 27:30. It may come as something of a surprise but there are more remarks in the Old Testament about tithing than there are about the afterlife…

Why is it that a tithe of everything is required by God, even spices and condiments like dill, mint, and cumin (see Matt. 23:23)? The answer is simple—because it is a reminder to God’s people that everything belongs to God. Everything! It’s not a matter of parceling things out between God’s portion and our portion, God’s property and our property. lt all belongs to God, and the tithing of the very first fruits of any and all crops and other things is a constant reminder of this fact. 

Ben Witherington III, Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis, Brazos Press.

Patience and Parking Spots

Have you ever felt like some people take longer to leave a parking spot when you are waiting for them? Well, apparently you are not just imagining it…Three separate studies have demonstrated that this is a real phenomenon. 

Why? People seem to feel like they “own” the parking spot and thus take even longer when they know someone is waiting to take their parking spot:

Three studies showed that drivers leaving a public parking space are territorial even when such behavior is contrary to their goal of leaving. In Study 1 (observations of 200 departing cars), intruded-upon drivers took longer to leave than non intruded-upon drivers. In Study 2, an experiment involving 240 drivers in which level of intrusion and status of intruder were manipulated, drivers took longer to leave when another car was present and when the intruder honked.

Males left significantly sooner when intruded upon by a higher rather than lower status car, whereas females’ departure times did not differ as a function of the status of the car. There was evidence that distraction might explain some of this effect. In Study 3, individuals who had parked at a mall were asked about how they would react to intruders. Compared to what they believed other people would do, respondents said they would leave faster if the car were just waiting for them to leave but they would take longer to leave if the driver in the car honked at them.

Stuart R Strachan Jr., Source Material: “Territorial Defense in Parking Lots: Retaliation Against Waiting Drivers” from Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 27, Issue 9, pages 821–834, May 1997.

Thinking Biblically about Work and Ownership

In modern Western culture we place a high value on work, which is fine, but one of the philosophical assumptions that can come with such values is that we assume that we own what we earn or buy. From a biblical point of view this is extremely problematic. There isn’t any necessary correlation between hard work and ownership. Think, for example, of all the hard work that went into building the pyramids in Egypt.

Most of the workers were slaves, and they had no delusions that because they built the pyramids they owned the pyramids. No, they believed that both the pyramids and they themselves belonged to Pharaoh! In this sense (excepting of course that Pharaoh is not God), they had a more biblical worldview of work than most of us do. Our hard work may be well rewarded or not. It may produce prosperity or not. But until we see all that we receive, whether by earning it or receiving it without work, as a gift from God, a gift we should use knowing who the true owner of the gift is, we will not be thinking biblically about such matters. 

Ben Witherington III, Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis, Brazos Press.

See also Illustrations on MaterialismPossessionsStewardship, Value