Justice and Fairness in Action

Colossians, Money, Thoughts, Work
A recent article in The Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper, highlighted the housing challenge for low income workers.  A study found that the average wage needed to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Nashville is $13.75 per hour ($16.35 for a two-bedroom).  This $13.75 per hour is not only about double the minimum wage, but is $1.94 per hour greater than the state average income.  This housing difficulty for low wage workers is just one of the symptoms of our out-of-whack income inequality in this country. But one man is doing something about it.  Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments, a credit card processing firm based in Seattle, recently announced a startling new wage structure for his company.  Last month, Mr. Price set out on a plan to raise the salary of…
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Justice and Fairness in the Workplace

Colossians, Money, Thoughts, Work
Now let's turn to the big picture of "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you have a Master in heaven" (Col 4:1).  We have a big problem in this country with income inequality.  We have all seen the statistics that compare executive pay to the lowly wages of the worker bees.  And I will not belabor the point except to summarize that the low end of the economic food chain in this country is grossly underpaid compared to what they contribute.  Free-market capitalism in our wage structure - that is, paying the lowest wage possible that the market will support to hire my workers - is one of the principle drivers of this inequality. But the biblical position is not free-market capitalism in the wage structure,…
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With Justice and Fairness

Colossians, Money, Thoughts, Work
"Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you have a Master in heaven" (Col 4:1).  Our last post covered the responsibility of workers to do their work heartily.  Today, we look at the flip side; the responsibility of employers to treat their employees with justice and fairness. In our rush to join American-style capitalism with American-style Christianity, we are quick to defend a business's right to maximize their profit.  We are quick to point out the requirement that "he who doesn't work, shouldn't eat", highlighting the need for a diligent workforce.  But the responsibility to treat the workforce with justice and fairness may be one of the most overlooked teachings in the New Testament.  There is a big picture aspect to this question that we will tackle later.  But for…
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Do Your Work Heartily

Colossians, Thoughts, Work
Let's look back for a minute on our tour through the book of Colossians.  We started in chapter 2 where the apostle Paul warns us "not to be taken captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col 2:8).  We learned that one of these deceptions is the "empty religion" of legalism where "self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Col 2:23). Continuing into chapter 3, the apostle explains that living the Christian life, defeating the flesh, is all about living into our new identity in Christ.  It is seeing our old man crucified at the cross and…
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Representing Jesus to the World

Thoughts, Work
Principle four is that we work to represent Jesus Christ to the world.  This is the last of our four principles that summarize why we go to work, and what we are trying to accomplish in our work. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such…
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Work Harder, Earn More???

Thoughts, Work
A corollary to the principle that the significance of our work is in our attitude and our excellence, not in our position, is the myth that there is always a cause and effect relationship between how hard you work and how much you earn.  Now on the surface this makes sense.  If you are paid for piece work at a furniture factory, your pay may be directly related to how many sofa legs you install in one day.  But in general, this cause and effect relationship does not exist.  Think with me about the big picture. There is so much that affects our pay that we have no control over.  For example, who is working harder on a typical day, the Indonesian rice farmer whose income is barely enough to…
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Excellence at Work

Thoughts, Work
Principle three is that we work to display excellence.  Colossians chapter 3 is set in the context of the new life in Christ.  What does this new life look like in marriage, in family life, in the workplace, etc?  Regarding work, Paul writes, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Col 3:23-24). Following the Protestant Reformation, churches began to see more clearly the value of work in the context of Scripture. The Protestant Work Ethic initially encouraged us to carry out our work in a chosen occupation with an attitude of service to God, and secondly, viewed work as a calling and avoided placing…
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Redirecting Wealth

Thoughts, Work
Principle two of why we go to work is that we work to redirect wealth from the world’s system to God’s purposes.  Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”  We are to work in order to share with those in need. God calls this laying up treasure in heaven.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be…
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The Value of Work

Thoughts, Work
One of the things recovered by the Protestant Reformation is the value of work.  In fact, it became known as the Protestant Work Ethic.  But that ethic is slowly being chipped away by forces from two very different directions. On the worldly front, the work ethic is under attack by an age of corruption and entitlement.  Rather than the traditional ideal of making money by working hard and gaining wealth by saving or ingenuity or inventiveness, we seem to be entering an age of corruption and entitlement.  Gaining wealth through fraud extends from Wall Street to Washington DC to Main Street.  It has become such a common income stream that we can't even tell if it is being policed.  And don't get me started on our entitlement culture that lives for handouts to corporations…
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