The idea is simple: You do an honest day’s work and get an honest day’s wage. There is a basic dignity in that. It is respectable. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place.
But then there are the cheaters. People who don’t do an honest day’s work, but they somehow manage to get the wage. They lie; they steal; and sometimes even coerce a wage. Criminals, they are, and often they go to jail for such – but not often enough. In fact, white-collar crime tends to get a pass and somehow seems more respectable. But this is an irony.
But do you ever stop to think how much of that kind of thing is not a crime? A lot of it is built right into the system. It may not get in the bold print of the advertisement, but the fine print says it’s legal. And whether we agree with it or not, it does impinge upon the basic simple idea we began with at the top of this post.
I worked in retail for years. In fact it was a “Christian” book store. The standard markup is 40-50%. Our store was a discount store. We took 10% off the markup from almost everything we sold and offered deeper cuts as a matter of weekly or monthly specials. But we still marked up prices 30-40%. This was the margin we tried to live on. This margin paid for our service.
But then other “Christian” bookstores came along to compete against us. They looked for an edge. They looked at our niche and probed us for vulnerabilities in the market. They took a strategy of growth, and once they started getting ahead, they began discounting our products with deeper discounts than we could afford. Meanwhile, they created flashy promo’s that out classed ours. They drew our customers away from us and started selling to them.
That’s all fair. That’s just business. But it sure ain’t Christian. So why did it win respect for our competitors?
Some people do legal work, but in fields that are not respected – or at least historically were not respected. Think of strippers at topless bars or IRS officials. Even if they are honest about the wage they make, it suffers disrespect, or at least these kinds of things used to suffer that. I suppose the IRS is not likely to win friends among the people they “serve” but they are legit. Strippers seem to have more respect and popularity these days than when I was young. And they sure make easy money and lots of it. Kinda like rock stars, it probably shouldn’t be right, but somehow it kinda is – or so we allow. Like the song says, “You get your money for nuthin’ and your chicks for free”. A lot of us are ironically impressed with that.
But then there are the banks and the insurance companies. We pay them to assume risk and generate capital which creates financial energy and moves whole societies this way or that. But that is not the same as doing an honest day’s work for an honest wage. Those services are thin as the air, and there are no physical/tangible products at the end of that process. It’s all other people’s money, and when these organizations begin to control loads of it, they enrich themselves to the point of little or no accountability. And that is assuming they are honest and legal, which frequently, as recent history has demonstrated repeatedly, is not the case. So how is it that these organizations bear any respect? This is the worst kind of abuse, is it not?
I had lunch with a lady as part of a church group one Sunday after church a few years ago. She worked as a loan officer in a bank. She felt conflicted about a certain account in her office from earlier in the week, and she openly discussed it with us fellow Christians around the table. Without giving names (she was careful to guard privacy), she told of a family who had taken out big loans and purchased heavy equipment for their family business. But this was back in 2009 when the economy had just tanked, and business was sluggish. Financially, this family was limping along about as far as the bank would allow. Even their house was tied up in the credit now, and they were at the end of the line. This lady lamented that she had to go in Monday morning and sign off on repossession of property against this hard working family. Her eyes pleaded for relief or validation from her Christian brothers and sisters around that table.
I was stunned when my brothers and sisters tried to comfort her! They told her, “You gotta do what you gotta do. These people signed an agreement. They knew what they were getting into… You are not to blame….”
I hauled off and said, “But of course, if you want to follow Jesus’s way, you really have no choice but to forgive the debt.”
That idea went over like a lead zeppelin. Suddenly, I was the freak at the lunch table. There was a scramble to marginalize the Word of God and my input. In the end, I presume the bank lady followed through with her plan. I don’t really know. I was just visiting that church and those people. I never met her again. But I feel reasonably sure, her hatchet job on that hard working family was considered legal, ethical, moral, and right. But it pretty much destroys that simple idea at the top of this post.
And with all this as a background, I wonder then why begging is considered beneath contempt. If a bum on a corner asks for money from passing cars, why is that made illegal? Why is it viewed with disrespect? And if the guy actually makes a living wage doing that, what ground do you stand on to condemn it?
And don’t try to tell me he is harming himself whether with drugs/alcohol or sloth. The “system” is already rewarding the bankers and strippers and rock stars with that, and I don’t see you shaming them.