My heart goes out to those people who, in the recent government shut-down, were referred to as “non-essential.” These people were not able to do their jobs, nor were they paid, and to heap upon them one more thing, they are considered to be unnecessary as far as their work is concerned. The amazing thing to me is that it is those “non-essential” workers who were absolutely essential for having the government be “opened.” The fact that they were not working is part of the reason the government was shut down for 35 days, and nothing got done.
How would I feel if everyone around me thought that my job was “non-essential”? What’s the point in putting in my time for doing work that others, including my boss, think is non-essential? My self-esteem plummets and my morale sinks to below the floor if the things that I do are thought to be unimportant. Yet, the government is shut-down and the “non-essential” people are not working. How important are the “essential” people? Even some of them were working but not getting paid for their work. How important did they think their jobs were? Not important enough to get paid for what they do.
It seems to me that the non-essential workers are essential. The people who clean the bathrooms in the national parks now seem pretty essential to me, particularly because when those bathrooms were closed during the government shut-down, the parks were desecrated and messes were made. I believe that the person who cleans restrooms and the President of the United States and the Bishop of the ELCA are each essential as they see their vocation as serving God and serving the needs of people.
Martin Luther writes in “The Freedom of a Christian”,
“I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.”
Jesus says that there is no one who is “non-essential”;
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
People are the central focus of God’s creation, and people are the reason for Christ’s death and resurrection. People, no matter their position in life, are essential, vital, indispensable, particularly as we begin to grasp that our meaning and purpose in life has much to do with how we treat one another as gifts of God to us. Whatever we do, whether we think our position is high or low in human standards, we are never “non-essential” to God. We are able to look at each person as “essential” in God’s value system, which is also our own way of valuing people. Everybody is essential!