Mar 252009

Once upon a time there was a belief shared by quite a few that a worker was entitled to a just wage in return for labor. By the same token, the laborer owed the employer an “honest day’s work.” The problem was not with the concept, but with its implementation.

The biblical story of Jacob and Laban is a fascinating way of working out the differences in perception as to what is fair. Fundamentally, we see what favors us as being fair. So we may end up bargaining it out, like Jacob and Laban. Only now, we resort to collective bargaining, which has become more of a power struggle than a striving for fairness. Jacob and Laban reached an agreement that both felt was fair and that they could live with.

We seem to have deviated a long way from this biblical concept. Hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a news story about some CEOs getting huge bonuses from their failing corporations while their employees lose their pensions and get layoff notices. The CEOs’ excesses, selfishness and greed mask the contributions made by many honest, hard-working CEOs who genuinely care for their employees and serve the interest of their stockholders and society.

The same holds true for our churches. Selfish ministers and priests who have abused their positions have brought shame to the clergy as a group and mask the good work of the many selfless, sacrificing clergy who put the wellbeing of others and society before their own interest.

We need to rediscover the concept of the just-wage theory. A theory that says if you work and contribute to the betterment of society, you deserve enough to sustain your family, to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, education, medical care and a decent retirement. And like a family at the dinner table, you don’t take more until everyone else has had enough.

Deacon Art Donart

Thomson, Ill.

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