America’s Goals: Goal 1 Good Jobs

All hard-working Americans should be able to earn a livable wage and have a decent standard of living, including paid time for family leave, vacations, and sick leave. Employees should have rights at work, and the chance to be represented on key decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods (from America’s Goals – Good Jobs).

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8.7 million workers in 2016 were below the poverty line. [1]

 

 

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In other countries with similar income levels, including France, Germany, and Denmark, workers are guaranteed family, vacation, and sick leave. [2]

 

 

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In 2017, Americans represented by trade unions had 19% higher median earnings than those without union representation. [3]

 

Jesus and the Gospel of Economic Justice

In the gospels we find that God’s concern for the conditions of the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed has not changed. Neither has God’s demand for justice. Jesus’ teachings and manner of life indicate that resources must be shared more equitably by creating access to the necessary provisions for life. In fact, concern for, and service to, the poor and vulnerable of society was at the heart and purpose of Jesus’ ministry, as he announces in Luke:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2 NRSV)

The pattern of Christian life presented in the gospels has particular relevance today as millions struggle as working poor, a shrinking middle class, and the increasing concentration of income and wealth in the top one percent. In her Magnificat (The Song of Mary), Mary rejoices in God who scatters the proud, brings down the mighty, and lifts up the poor and lowly (Luke 1:51-53). Later Jesus proclaims that the poor will have good news brought to them (Matthew 11:5).

In the most foundational of all Christian prayers – the one that Jesus taught his disciples; The Lord’s Prayer, addressed the deep human need of release from oppressive debt and providing for literal bread to survive another day.i

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NRSV)

The Lord’s Prayer was a petition for daily bread (a basic food staple for survival) and for the release from debt (“debt” being the original term) as debt threatened the ability to have dignity and material necessities for survival. It is a petition for a social order that will allow for the supply of basic needs as God is asked to participate in the removal of the oppressive powers that impoverish people.

Jesus connects this to the radical forgiveness and release that is available in God’s reign. Jesus advocates for release from oppressive economic conditions and perceives a moral obligation for a new social behavior of forgiveness and reconciliation (Matthew 18:12-25; Luke 7:42-43, 16:1-8).

Everyone deserves a job which pays a living wage. The Gospel message of Jesus goes to the heart of goals 1A and 1C. There is also ample evidence of the important of sabbath throughout Scripture. The need for rest and  replenishment is woven into the DNA of creation. Sabbath coming from the Creator.  Walter Brueggemann has written a wonderful book (Sabbath as Resistance) on the centrality of sabbath for American culture.