There are many discussions today about the place of the minimum wage and what the appropriate minimum wage is in society. Some cities have raised their minimum wage in response. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which means an annual salary of around $15,000 if one works every week for 52 weeks. And compared to others in the world, this might even be seen as something quite good. But how is it we are supposed to treat workers? What does it mean to pay, as Jesus mentions in the parable, a “wage that is fair”?
In this country, it simply does not seem a fair wage is the current minimum wage, even if it is, as some suggest, simply for entry level jobs. How can it be that someone who is in an entry level job can live on $15,000 a year? And when we consider the rest of the world, how is it just that in too many countries people work unbelievably long hours, for much less pay, so that we can have cheap clothing?
The Church considers work to be a high and noble endeavor. It helps us not only to provide services, but it enables human beings to thrive. Yet we know that not all who work do so at jobs that enable them to thrive. Too many in the world work at dangerous jobs for substandard wages. Rather than lead to the human dignity work should provide, too often in our world it leads not to human dignity, but to human objectification and degradation.
Perhaps the question for today is where is it that the presence of Jesus becomes clear enough for bosses, workers and consumers that all grow in holiness? How is it that we create jobs consistent with the faith we profess? How is it we seek to create employment that preserves and protects our environment? How is it that we seek to find places for employment where working conditions are safe?
Jesus poses a direct question about the Sabbath, but it could be applied, I think, to our everyday lives too. Is it lawful to do good or evil? By striving to find the presence of Jesus in all we do, we find ourselves in the pursuit of the good.