“All who labor and are heavy-laden….”
I hope we all enjoyed a good Labor Day. Those of us fortunate to have salaried jobs generally get the day off – always welcome. But more and more folks in our economy are hourly workers, or occasional (‘gig’) workers, without benefits such as paid holidays. They are not so fortunate to be able to relax for a day.
Jesus was always very concerned about the basic human struggles people faced. He came from peasant stock, and he knew the struggle of putting food on the table. He spoke more about poor people, and the right use of money, than anything else except the Kingdom of God itself. In Jesus’ day, laborers were getting squeezed: their land was being foreclosed upon by loan sharks, and the tax burden from Rome was crippling.
This Sunday we’ll think about Jesus’ parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. This story confounds many folks, because the owner pays all the laborers the same daily wage, even though they worked very different hours. Is this fair? Why would Jesus condone this? I think it was because Jesus’ first concern was “food on the table” – if those workers didn’t get paid that day, their families probably didn’t eat that night.
On Monday night, St. Dunstan’s follows up on this issue with our community forum on the question before the Montgomery County Council: “Should we have a $15 minimum wage?” Councilmembers Roger Berliner (District 1) and Marc Elrich (at-large) will debate the issue here at 7 p.m. Monday. Please come and bring your neighbors.
Of course Jesus doesn’t tell us what the minimum wage should be in 2017. But Jesus did want everybody to have enough of God’s gifts to live a decent life with dignity. In today’s economy, many people work long hours and still don’t have enough to live. The is particularly acute in high-cost areas such as ours. Economic justice, like charity, should begin at home. JBM