Economic justice

Why we need a living wage and economic justice

Over the past few weeks and months, new economic initiatives have been proposed to address the growing financial hardship facing millions of people. The student loan relief plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the new economic plan released by the White House reflect some of the economic hardships that exist and the multifaceted approaches that should bring relief.

“He who is trustworthy in small things is also trustworthy in big things” (Lk 16:10).

liturgical day

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Readings

Am 8:4-7, Ps 113, 1 Tim 1:1-8, Lu 16:1-13

Pray

What can you do to support the vulnerable and most needy?

Do you criticize and condemn corrupt financial practices?

Do you benefit from corrupt financial practices?

Advocating for a living wage is a necessary step to contributing to economic justice, but recognizing, addressing and resolving the flaws in our economic system is a pressing concern beyond the issue of wages as well. Economic realities are not just the business of political leaders and business leaders. They are and should be a concern of all, especially religious leaders and faith communities, because God is deeply concerned about the plight of the poor and there are theological implications related to people’s inability to care for themselves and their families because of economic injustice.

The First Reading and the Gospel of the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time speaks of economic hardship and dishonest financial practices that can help us reflect, analyze and act to rectify our current systems that often do not benefit those who have it. Not needed anymore.

In the first reading of Amos, the prophet directs his statements to people who “trample down the needy and destroy the poor of the land”, people in positions of power with more advantages and access to wealth. Amos criticizes these people’s fixation on obtaining more wealth. He also berates them for deceptive financial practices, such as balance fraud so they can make even more money. Amos warns that God will remember these actions, and financial abuse and misuse is interpreted as a reason for the destruction befalling the earth.

The First Reading and the Gospel of the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time speaks of economic hardship and dishonest financial practices that can help us reflect, analyze and act to rectify our current systems that often do not benefit those who have it. Not needed anymore.

Amos offers us a way to look at our own financial crises. The Prophet directs his criticism to those most responsible for injustice, and his denunciation of the injustice of financial misconduct is firm and clear. As we collectively face financial hardship, we must also recognize the parties who benefit from unfair practices and those who help create them. Who are the people, corporations and political agents today who are “trampling the needy and destroying the poor?”

The Gospel offers another type of reflection on economic questions. Jesus shares a parable centered on dishonest financial practices that are rooted in a system of slavery. The premise of the parable, its power dynamics and economic practices, are problematic, and Jesus’ praise for the steward’s deceptive actions is difficult to understand and appreciate.

The greater Gospel of Luke is useful for reflecting on the parable. Jesus repeatedly calls for the care and support of poor people, so it would be contrary to the larger message of the Gospel to take the endorsement of corrupt business practices as the meaning of this parable. The type of financial system in the parable, a system of bondage, could explain why the slave, the person impoverished and in a vulnerable state, is not explicitly condemned for his actions. His deception could be seen as a survival strategy in context.

Likely due to the content of the parable, the lectionary offers a shorter option that highlights the issues of trying to serve both God and Mammon (wealth, money, possessions). This element is notable and echoes what we have encountered in recent Sundays. When reflecting on discipleship, Jesus emphasized that his followers must be willing to give up their wealth, possessions, and family relationships in order to follow him. This parable could be understood as an example of the corruption that can be associated with wealth, which could be another reason why followers of Jesus are called to give up wealth to be disciples.