Saw Skills, Hammer Skills, Paint Skills

It’s an interesting labor system here. There are tons of places in town where you’ll find a bunch of people sitting out on the sidewalk with a little sign in front of them. Took me a long time to figure out who these people were and what their signs were all about. Turns out, they’re general laborers, and their signs are a list of the junk they can do. Sometimes there’ll be a guy holding a saw sitting next to a guy holding a hammer. Apparently it’s the only tool they’ve got, and apparently, there either aren’t enough jobs for these guys to find steady employment, or they prefer the schedule or the money of working single jobs.

Anyway, when we wanted to have our new place painted, we went to a couple of these ladies, told them what we wanted, and negotiated about price until they volunteered to come and look at the place. We ended up paying 1 kuai a meter – about 18 bucks total for two big rooms. Of course, they get paint everywhere! They left a huge mess, and left me and St. cleaning for about three hours straight.

This whole off-the-street recruitment reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the householder who went out to hire laborers for his vineyard. Agreed for a penny a day and sent them out. Throughout the day he finds guys “standing idle.” Their reason? “Because no man has hired us.” I like the attitude of the householder – why are you standing idle? I can understand that you don’t work for me yet, but why aren’t you doing something? Waiting by the side of the road with your tool rusting in your hands is a waste. It’s almost like the householder hired them just because they were idle. It doesn’t seem that he had a certain idea in his head of how many laborers he actually needed – he hires people from the beginning of the day until the end of the day.

How many of us as Christians find ourselves idling away our days, while the gift, the tool God gave us gets rusty and falls into disrepair. We’re in the workplace, “the marketplace,” but we strangely have no work! Waiting for someone to come “hire us,” and give us the perfect ministry to take over. Meanwhile, the vineyard rots. Something tells me that if these laborers had submitted an application to this householder earlier in the day, they might not have wasted their time sitting. Truth be told, it’s a far easier day to sit on the curb and hold the tool and call yourself a laborer than to put in some applications and find some steady work in a field.

There’s fields here in China, fields in the Muslim world, fields in Africa, and fields in Asia that are sitting just as idle as the laborers who refuse to work in them. I can’t hardly believe that if you submitted an application, God would flat turn you down.

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