Monday, December 11, 2006

Rev. Beth Long's Witness for a Living Wage

St. Gregory's Rector, Beth Long, joined a state-wide gathering advocating for Georgia's assembly to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage as they met at the Presbyterian Center in Athens.  She rocked the house!  Here's what she said:

Why do people of faith need to raise the minimum wage?  Because Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt!  He received a covenant which empowered living life as a free people: physically, socially, economically and spiritually. There is hardly anywhere you can open the Bible that you will not find true religion equated with social and economic justice, and idolatry equated with injustice and oppression. 

Jesus of Nazareth said plenty about money.  It was one of his favorite topics, second only to the kingdom of God.   For almost 200 years after his death, the people who followed his way lived with equality, sharing and non-violence.  Love God with all your heart and life and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you want to work like a slave and still not have enough to feed, clothe and house yourself and your family, and never enjoy a Sabbath rest without worry and anxiety for the future?   Would you want that for your own children?  Would you want that for anyone you love?  God certainly doesn’t want that for you.  That’s why God led the people out of slavery in Egypt and sent the prophets to the kings every time they began to make it hard for ordinary folk to survive.  So if we love this God, we will want for our neighbors the same good things that God wants for us:  to live in health and safety with enough to eat, and a day of rest to enjoy and give thanks for all our blessings.  Right now we have a perfect opportunity to live this out by supporting the increase in the minimum wage in Georgia and to continue to do so until it becomes a living wage!

Maybe some of us think this is impossible.  We imagine that institutional and economic realities are absolute constraints on our creativity and what is possible for us to accomplish.  But the good news of God’s love is not a luxury or a fairy tale. Where we see scarcity, Jesus and the prophets see abundance. 

The living God tells us there is enough, and in fact, there is more than enough.  When we stand by while others are hungry or enslaved, we are starving and imprisoning our own souls because deep down it is our joy to love our neighbors as ourselves! 

Why do people of faith need to raise the minimum wage?  Hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah:  “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. . . The Lord will satisfy your needs in parched places and make your bones strong. . .your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.. . .Go through the gates, prepare the way for the people, build up the highway, clear it of stones; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”


The Reverend Beth Long

St. Gregory the Great, Athens 

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