Friday, December 6, 2013

Why the Church should stand behind higher wages

I want to be clear, I am not advocating for government intervention for a minimum wage increase, I am advocating for a compassion intervention.  Don't get me wrong, I would not oppose an increase in minimum wages to a livable salary, but making people pay livable wages does not change anyone's heart.  So, if legislation was passed to increase minimum wage I would be completely behind it, but it would still fall short of the greater goal.  The greater goal is to have consumers, employers, investors, and employees to see the working force not just as soulless line items, but as human beings.  The greater goal is not to force, but to compel people to move in the direction of providing every full-time worker with a livable wage regardless of education, race, background, ethnicity, religion or language.


"Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain" (Deut. 25:4).  This scripture passage is one of those that sound too odd to be in the Bible.  But the passage centers on compassion and fair treatment.  While your ox is working and treading the grain, you cannot cover its mouth so that it will not eat in the midst of the work.  The ox deserves to eat and be provided for while doing the work it is being required to do.  The one who is using the ox to do the work is responsible to make sure the ox get what it needs.  If this is how we treat animals, certainly human beings deserve better.  This means that employees, who are doing the work required of them, are the responsibility of the employer to make sure they have enough to survive.  Currently the minimum wage 40 hours a week worker earns far below the poverty line.  Employees are falling further and further behind, the responsibility of the employer to provide has fallen on government programs.

1 Timothy 5:18 quotes this Deuteronomy passage adding Luke 10:7 "the worker deserves his wages."  One who works and does the work required of them deserves to be paid a wage that provides a basic level of living. 

James 5:4 says that the wages you refuse to pay the worker who worked your field have been noticed by the Lord Almighty.  If God notices our refusal to pay our workers, I believe God still notices when we pay our employees inadequately. 

Sometimes we fall into the mistake that God only cares about our "spiritual existence" but this is nothing but empty religion.  Scripture is full of mandates concerning provision for our neighbors.  God is concerned with our economic system, and Christ cares for how we treat the "lowest" of employees.  Lack of education or training is not an adequate excuse to underpay the children of God. 

One of Jesus' most enamoring names he has for us is "sheep."  Scripture, more than a few times, refers to God's people as sheep.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John 10, and leaders and elders of God's people are also called shepherds.  Sheep have a fairly simple job, grow wool.  Sheep basically do their job just by existing. For us humans, our jobs are much tougher.  It is the Shepherd's job to care, protect, and provide for the sheep.  Ezekiel 34:2-4 has some harsh words for Shepherds who do not care for their sheep:

            Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds       take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter      the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the       weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.

This passage is most often read with national or spiritual leaders as the Shepherds and I believe that is the most accurate place to begin.  However, the passage does not intend to stop there.  I also believe that this passage can and does talk to employers.  If you demand the work of your employees, if you consume 40 hours a week of their life, if you profit from their toil, and they go hungry or naked then you are judged as an unjust Shepherd. Employers, along with leaders, and pastors, are called not to care just for themselves, but for those they are over.  I believe God gifts and appoints employers along with pastors, teachers, and leaders to use their talents to provide sustainable and fulfilling jobs, economies, societies, schools, etc. however, we have fell woefully short.

Our prayers and church attendance is not enough when our employees, who are our brothers and sisters, do not have enough.  We must push, we must strive, we must struggle to ensure our brothers and sisters who work do not also have to beg. 

The truth is there is enough.  Jesus Christ has made sure of this.  God in his infinite wisdom did not intend to create a universe where people must suffer for others to survive. What creates this suffering? Sin! We have to stop believing the law that there is not enough to pay everyone enough.  There is plenty, God has designed it that way.  If there is enough for 5,000 with 12 baskets leftover, than there is enough for all of us. 

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