Sixteen tons and what do you get? Anyone born before 1955 can tell you the answer to that question. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of the song “Sixteen Tons” sold two million copies in less than two months! Americans identified with the tale of a coal miner so deep in debt that he could not afford to die. You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store. . .
When I was in college I served a church that was built for the employees of a lumber mill. It was named for the mill owner who also had built all of the workers’ little houses. The company store sold all of the groceries, dry goods and liquor the people wanted. The costs were deducted from their paychecks, and so was their rent. They could also get paycheck loans and advances. The railroad tracks divided the company town racially so there was a black church and a white church. Yet most of these same people tithed, so their church could have a fulltime pastor and part-time music/youth director. They gave to missions, paid their utilities, bought Sunday School literature for everyone, mailed out a newsletter and had wonderful potluck dinners.
Sometimes we forget that the good old days were a whole lot like today, only with less stuff and quaint technology. The preachers warned against a growing materialism that was leading us down a path of greed, selfishness and heartache. Today will be the good old days of our grandchildren. What life lessons are they learning? What examples of Christian commitment do they see? When the pressures of money, work or family seem to drown us in the depths of stress, to whom do you owe your very soul?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be a role model. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.