Summary: Both Jamestown and Plymouth nearly failed in their early years. But it was the Pilgrims' view of labor that not only saved it's colony, but became the driving force in making our nation great.
OPEN: (Asking the Crowd)
What is this weekend?
That’s right – it’s Labor Day Weekend. And our sermon today is the beginning of a series on “What Made America Great”.
This first sermon deals with the greatness that has been brought to our nation because of how and why our people have learned to work.
Back in the 1600’s those from Europe, who colonized America, had different visions of what kind of nation this was to be.
To the south, one of the first settlements by Europeans was in what is now known as Jamestown, Virginia. You can still visit that settlement today, and it is a beautiful and well kept memorial to the experience of those first few settlers.
But what few people know is that the settlement was failure for years. For 40 years the settlers there were almost entirely dependent upon England for their survival. And there were two very basic reasons for this:
1st - God wasn’t that important to them.
There was ONLY one church and it was rarely well attended.
And 2nd - work was considered beneath many of those settlers.
The Europe of that day held to the idea that work was degrading. The rich and powerful rarely stooped to dirtying their hands with common tasks because it just wasn’t done - those duties were reserved for the lower classes. In fact, this idea of a powerful and privileged class of individuals who didn't need to work was reinforced by the teachings of the church of that day.
Many of the original settlers at Jamestown were Aristocrats of the favored classes. Thus they were accustomed to expecting others to do work for them. That might have worked out, had their been enough “others” to do those common tasks, but as it was there weren’t enough workers to plant sufficient crops to support everyone who lived there. As a result, little got done… and food was scarce.
So, what did they do if there wasn’t enough food from what they planted? Where would these Europeans get enough to live on?
From the Indians.
The settlers at Jamestown would often steal from the Indians, and sometimes even kill to get what they needed.
As you can imagine, this didn’t make them real popular with the surrounding tribes.
Now to the North, there was another colony at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.
This colony was made up of pilgrims that had been forced out of Europe because they refused to accept the teachings of many of the churches there, and Initially the Pilgrim settlement there nearly failed as Jamestown did. The reason?
The first two years, their contract as a colony called for a socialist form of government.
· There was no private property.
· Everyone was required to work together for the common good.
· All goods and food were shared by everybody.
Because of the social makeup of Plymouth, many of these colonists began to realize they didn’t have to work very hard in order to be eligible for sharing from the common stocks… and so they didn’t work very hard. And sometimes they didn’t work at all.