The wage gap according to the Bible

This is the fifth article in the the series, How to be a Biblically “woke” Christian

It’s very evident there’s a wage gap issue that needs to be addressed immediately. There’s been disparity amongst wage earners, well, since people were paid (or not) for their labor. Women’s soccer players are in the headlines right now decrying the fact they earn less than their male counterparts, so there’s obviously a problem that needs fixing. And what better source of solutions is there to which we can turn than the Bible?

You might ask, “Does the Bible really discuss wage gaps? Does God really care about justice for the oppressed?” Absolutely. Are you ready to get woke about what the Bible has to say about the wage-gap problem?

The clearest declaration of worker’s rights and anti-discrimination is in Deuteronomy 24:14-15 where it says, “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.” Right here God says to do right by your employees no matter their race or social status. Equality, right there.

Wise King Solomon said in Proverbs 20:23, “Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.” This clearly teaches us that the “scales” of business are to be correct so that the right amount of money is given, and that withholding money unjustly by fraud or deceit is reprehensible. Again, equality in your face.

From what we can see in the Old Testament, God evidently cares a lot about people getting what they deserve and not being cheated or mistreated. In fact, God punished Israel multiple times for disobeying him in these ways. God cares for the oppressed, no matter how you look at it. But, what do we see in the New Testament?

Jesus Christ, God himself, offers a parable in Matthew, chapter 20, that deals with the theme of wages. He tells a story about a property owner who hires people to work in his vineyards for a “denarius,” or what amounted to a days’ wage. The landowner, upon visiting the marketplace after having hired the first group of workers, sees some unemployed people and hires them, and they agree to his terms: “Whatever is right I will give you.” Two more times this vineyard owner goes out and hires more workers all the way up until the last hour of the day.

After the workday is done, the foreman is directed to pay all the laborers a denarius each, starting with those who only worked an hour. “Surely, we’ll get more since we worked all day,” those who were hired in the morning thought. But, no. They got the same wage as those who only worked for a fraction of the time. Obviously, the people who were fatigued and sunburned from toiling twelve hours were pretty upset. How was the landowner being just? That’s not Capitalism! That’s Communism! But, wait. Isn’t that a great example of closing the wage gap? Isn’t that like raising the minimum wage? They all got paid the same even though they didn’t work commensurate amounts.

Wait a second. Was the landowner Jesus described unjust or not? It matters because Jesus started the parable with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” What kind of a kingdom does Jesus rule where people who work very little get paid as much as those who work hard? It sounds almost like welfare in America.

There are two truths to take away from this. The first is that God absolutely cares for those who are truly oppressed (not just someone or some group who applies their own victim status). God demands his people care for widows, orphans, sojourners, foreigners, and the downcast. The second truth is that the landowner in the parable did nothing wrong in his decision to pay all the laborers the same wage. In fact, the parable has nothing to do with how much people should be paid for their work.

The point is that some of Jesus’ followers will work very hard and suffer greatly in this life, and others will live comfortable, mostly trouble free lives; or that some people will become Christians younger in life and therefore endure more hardship and give up more worldly living for the sake of Christ, while others will live as they please and then have “deathbed conversions.” In both instances, all who enter the kingdom of heaven after their “day” of laboring in this life all receive the same “payment” (note this is NOT a passage supporting the idea of doing good works to earn salvation).

If you’re concerned about a wage gap, look to the kingdom of heaven where there will be no disparity or inequality in what God’s people will receive – living in the very presence of Jesus Christ who died for them and provided the means of entrance into the eternal kingdom.

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