Sometimes that Jesus guy just gets in the way — of sleep, of politics, of economics, of every bit of “life as it is”. Sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t get in the way of more people’s lives. When I say Jesus, I don’t mean “The Christ”, “the church” or “theology” which are all open to interpretation and which we can endlessly prattle on about, pressing them into the service of whatever political viewpoint we want, so that we can talk about politics in the abstract rather than each other in reality.
This morning, the alarm went off to NPR, and the local version (Connecticut) began talking about housing and how the average person in Stamford must make $23.00 per hour at 40 hours per week in order to afford rental housing. Not food or clothing, mind you, but just shelter. Further, they went on to say that 94% of people in CT cannot afford to rent if they work 40 hours at minimum wage.
Forget about socialism vs democracy. Forget about the sequester. Stop arguing for or against gun control and listen to this:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and later … “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”.
Ok, maybe that requires belief that Jesus was somebody special (maybe even God) and maybe it requires fear of a judgmental God and you’re not into that.
What about this sentence, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself”? You can be an atheist and believe that’s a good idea, What about this one — “Do to others as you would have them do to you”? Ditto.
Ok. If anybody can believe those, why don’t we actually do them? How can a person, or an agency, or a hedge fund (both made up of people) charge someone more than they can possibly make for something they absolutely need? How can they require first month, last month, and a security deposit — in effect tripling the cost of something already beyond their reach?
I know many of us aren’t landlords, and that most of us don’t invest in hedge funds, but there are human beings all along this trail who could make choices which lighten the burden of their system on their brothers and sisters, and at least some of us are “them”. If you wouldn’t want to be homeless, or spend all your money on a place to live, don’t charge anyone else to do the same .
We each are a part of the economy. if we don’t sell things, we make them, if we don’t make them, we buy them. In all of these things, we deal with each other. If we treated each other as we wanted to be treated, would we really need to make a 40% mark-up on something? If we value the worth of each human being, do we really need the most expensive car or $150.00 pairs of sneakers? If your brother or sister (either literally or figuratively) doesn’t have a pair of pants appropriate for the winter, how can you consider getting them without sharing what you have?
Do you really need another app or the most recent upgrade? Do you need to make people jealous or pressure them to have something can’t afford? If you make cars or build whatever, can you afford to not ask for a 10 cent raise or — when offered a contract where you don’t really work as much as you say you will, do you need to take it? Your ten cents or your ethical contract can mean the difference between your brother or sister eating, or getting around, or having electricity.
If you own a restaurant, I know you can pay your waitresses or waiters $2.50 per hour, but must you? If you know that Sally or Bill is working and not getting by, can’t you give them a raise or let them take food home or … or… Can’t you give them health insurance if they need it? If you dine at a restaurant, do you need to be stingy with the tip? Would you want to feed your family on whatever your server makes?
Would you want to hear that people didn’t want to pay taxes to help “people like you”? If not, don’t say things like that.
Clearly, the economy is, in human terms, messed up. People can’t afford food, clothing, or shelter. We buy water. We pay for air we put in our tires. We charge 30% interest on credit cards, or 500% on “payday loans”. We spend more money on a phone bill than others do in food every month. Some of us charge more on a phone bill than budgets allow.
Do we really need to charge $50.00 for an aspirin ? Do you need to charge $100.00 per hour to fix a car? Would you want to be charged more than you can afford? Then why would you do it to someone else?
Then, if you’re a billionaire or a CEO, first I’d be greatly surprised that you’re reading this, but secondly and more importantly, do you really need those stock options? Jet plane? Yacht? Do you need to be worth more than some school system’s budget for the next 20 years?
The economic system of which we are all a part is made up of human beings. We have choices. We could live like Jesus says and think about each other or we could continue to do what we’re doing and mess up each other’s lives with no care or concern. We could live as many religions and philosophies suggest or we can live the way we do — stepping all over each other and not caring about the pain we cause. These are our choices, and they show up in things like politics, or the numbers on the stock exchange, or wage structures or prices, but in the long run they are about us and — karma or justice or God being what they are — they will come back to us. Do we really want to be on the receiving end of those choices? These are the questions that that Jesus guy challenges us with, the ones that keep robbing us of sleep if we think abot them at all.