Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Utopia of Jesus Christ

You can consider this a declaration that this blog will now be switching again from social conservativism to Papal Economics. Due to an article I read today, and a promise elsewhere to read Papal Economics, I'm kicking off with this post. But despite my own history of reading Papal Catholic Social Teaching encyclicals, I'd like to start with something a bit more basic in light of current debate on the minimum wage: Matthew 20:1-16
“1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This reading gives us a very basic idea of what Christian economics should look like. Yes, there is direct reward for work done, but there is also a concern for the needs of each individual worker taken by the owner of the vineyard. He didn't punish those who were hired late- a denarius was enough to pay for a day's bread and a place to sleep. Every one of his workers had the same basic needs, whether full time or part time, and deserved reward for using their time in the vineyard. Should we as Christians do any less?

Better yet, in a nation where often the profit of the wealthy depends on the contraception and abortion of the poor, where many businesses find their profit margin in pushing working people on to food stamps and subsidized health care, are we truly giving our modern equivalent of a denarius to minimum wage workers? Or are we instead saying, these people aren't worth enough to be given an opportunity to be a part of the culture of life?

For once, I'd like to truly invite discussion on this topic. Next post will be on the preface and chapter 1 of the book.


Theodore Seeber said...

I don't believe that the Red Sea was ever parted or that thousands of slaves escaped Egypt and settled in the land of Canaan. Is that because I am influenced by demons?

Theodore Seeber said...

I'd expect so- because both events are quite possible. I've experienced something like the parting of the Red Sea in a bay here in Oregon, that allowed me to walk across on dry land an area normally reserved for boats. And the escape of the slaves from Egypt isn't that hard to believe either, most primitive societies had slaves escaping all the time.

Neither of these are even particularly supernatural- modern science and modern history knows of explanations for both. What is your reason for disbelieving? Or do you even have one?

Theodore Seeber said...

My question to you is this. Is a person does not believe that thousands of Israelites were helped in escaping the Egyptian army by the parting of the Red Sea, is that person necessarily being influenced by demons?

Theodore Seeber said...

They're certainly being influenced by something. Why not demons?

Sea parting is a matter of timing, tides, and weather. It happens surprisingly frequently; it really isn't even that much of a miracle. The "Fides et ratio" skeptic in me would call it a "Miraculous coincidence"- a natural event with supernatural timing. I don't find anything unbelievable in the story of the Exodus at all, even the plagues are phenomena that have been known to happen from time to time in modern history.

And certainly Ramses II would have good political reason for a coverup; preventing the story of the loss of an army from getting out.

The event is just to mundane NOT to be believable.

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