The Good Samaritan and Unemployment Insurance

The Good Samaritan
The parable of the good Samaritan is one of those stories from Jesus that is used by many people and is referenced often in the news. If someone does a good deed that is newsworthy they are deemed a good Samaritan. If a taxi cab driver returns a passenger’s briefcase full of cash they are a good Samaritan. If a bystander sticks up for someone being bullied or a victim of a crime in the heat of the moment they are a good Samaritan. Our culture honors these people and rightly so. We need people who do good things for no other reason than it being the right thing to do.

Background Story
The larger story is about more than just performing a good deed. Paraphrasing the words of Jesus in Luke 10, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the road he was robbed, beaten to a pulp and left for dead holding on for dear life. Two people passed by who happened to be priests saw the disfigured man and just walked on by paying him no mind. But then the outlier, the Samaritan, saw this human being that was beaten down through no fault of his own and was moved with compassion. Converting that compassion into action, the Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, gave him shelter bringing him to an inn and paid the bill for the stay. And not only did the Samaritan pay for the shelter, he gave the innkeeper a credit card for any further charges incurred bringing the man who was beaten back to full health.

Making the Connection
Today there are people who are continually robbed and beaten down, only it is not by physical means but by the economic system that has past its prime: capitalism. The crisis that was created by the wealthy is being paid for on the backs of the poor. The two priests who ignored the man laying on the road are the Senate and House of Representatives. The failure to renew unemployment insurance for those beaten down and unemployed for no fault of their own displays these rich rulers lack of compassion. They have just walked on by expecting inaction to be motivation for the beaten down to find a job.

Call to Action
We must demand that our politicians bend to our will and renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. The government must act like the good Samaritan and get the people who have been robbed and beaten down by the predatory actions of capitalist bankers back on their feet. Write your representatives. Let them know you are outraged and demand their action to extend long-term jobless benefits. How shall government pay for this? Let the rich pay for it.

We should not expect the people who have been beaten to a pulp and left for dead to pick themselves up by their bootstraps. If one is unemployed, we are all unemployed. If one is struggling we are all struggling.

A Living Wage

Matthew 20:1-16 The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

“The kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” The master of the house, the CEO so to speak, agrees on a set wage with his employees who were hired in the morning: 1 denarius. For analogy, let’s call this $15/hour or $120 for the day. Three hours later the CEO goes back to the marketplace and sees the laborers standing idle so he hires them too with an agreed wage of “whatever is right.” This happens three more times throughout the day agreeing upon a wage of “whatever is right.”

In the evening when it was time to settle up with his employees, the CEO paid his employees in reverse order of which they were hired. The employees hired at the end of the day who worked the least amount of hours were paid $120. Then the next employees who were hired just before them were paid $120. And so on it went until the employees hired in the beginning were paid $120.

That’s not fair!

The employees hired in the morning thought for sure they would be paid more and when they weren’t they were pissed off. The CEO responds telling them that he has the right to do as he pleases with his payroll budget.

Why were the last workers paid a full days wages of $120?

When the CEO asked the laborers in the marketplace at the end of the day why they were standing there the laborers said no one had hired them. Why weren’t they hired? They were likely not the strongest or the most skilled or the youngest. They had done nothing wrong but no one hired them. It was not their fault they had not been hired.

Maybe they had just immigrated from another part of the world and had not established residency yet? Maybe free trade agreements forced them to come into another country out of necessity to survive? Maybe the high barriers to higher education forced them into low-skill jobs? Maybe the cards were stacked against these people from birth.

Whatever is right.
The CEO knew what was right. The living wage for these workers was $120 a day. Paying each employee a livable wage regardless of the other factors involved is what was right. That was justice in practice.

Whether it be employees at WalMart who are not allowed to work more than 39.5 hours so they do not qualify for benefits or fast food workers who are unable to survive on a minimum wage that has not kept up with the economy let alone the pace of CEO pay, the kingdom of God demands that those who are willing to work and those who are unable to work be paid a livable wage. Yes, unable to work. No human is left behind in the kingdom.

The kingdom of God is not like capitalism.
It is the opposite. No, its not like socialism either but that is a step in the right direction. What is right is not profits first but people first. When those at the bottom and on the fringes of society are elevated to a livable wage everyone shall profit, rich and poor alike.

God is on the side of those fighting for a living wage.

Any thoughts?