Lebanon Reporter

Columns

November 15, 2013

Living Wages are a Benefit to Society

I extend my greetings, grace and peace to all of the readers of The Lebanon Reporter. The last time I wrote an article for this newspaper, I received such a number of calls and notes of appreciation that I have decided to once again touch on the same subject. In my last article I wrote about wages, especially the disparity between wealthy and poor, as a moral issue in our nation. I am thankful for all the feedback I have received, and would like to further the discussion on the state of wages in our country. This time I would like to address the idea of a living wage as a benefit to our nation’s spiritual and economic well-being. I would also like to make clear that my thoughts are primarily directed toward large national and international corporations, rather than local small businesses that operate under tighter economic constraints. Allow me to begin this discussion with a parable from Jesus. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus told a parable about a master of the house hiring laborers for his vineyard. For each laborer, no matter what time of day they were hired, the owner agreed to pay 1 denarius. Whether the person worked the entire day or only 1 hour, they each received 1 denarius. Now, I understand the important eschatological ramifications of this parable and its relationship to the kingdom of heaven, but I believe that Jesus chose the illustration of a denarius intentionally for his listeners. In Jesus’ day 1 denarius represented the wages needed to sustain life in the community in which the workers lived. This parable invites me in and makes me wonder what our community and our nation would be like if workers made a wage that enabled them to sustain life. It is in this thought that I come up with this hypothesis. Living wages are necessary for a healthy society, both spiritually and economically. On the economic side: if every worker made a living wage, they would have enough money to provide for their basic needs and have enough to be an economic contributor to this society. A higher wage would mean more money in the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare fund, as those funds are directly tied to wages. This would mean more security for our aging population. Living wages would mean that fewer people would need to be on governmental programs. Higher wages would mean more income into the US Treasury to reduce budget deficits and overall debt. Living wages would place people in the role of tax contributors instead of on the roles of earned income tax creditors. Higher wages would create a demand for more goods and services as people’s standard of living would increase, thus creating more jobs. It is my belief that living wages are the only true job creators in our economic system, as disposable income creates economic activity. On the spiritual side: wages are a way that owners express value to their employees. It is saying that the gifts you bring to my organization have worth and I treasure them. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” According to Jesus, your treasure is an indicator of where the heart is. Wages are a part of the owner’s treasure, and their heart is spiritually connected to how much they are willing to part with as value to their neighbor as an employee. It is my belief that the lack of living wages and the enormous income disparity we are experiencing now is a moral dilemma for this nation, as living wages are a right to life issue. For the economic and spiritual well-being of this nation we must address this concern, and I humbly ask that this discussion becomes a part of our national discourse in the months and years to come. Peace. Rev. Scott D. Mauch is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church.

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