Minimum Wage and the 10th Commandment

For many months now there has been a movement to increase the federal minimum wage. While some individuals, think tanks, and special interest groups are in favor of a slight increase from the current $7.25 an hour that the federal government mandates, others want something in the neighborhood of $15 an hour. There’s even a Fight for $15 movement where supporters have demonstrated or protested outside fast food restaurants. They claim they deserve or need a “living wage,” one that multi-million dollar companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and others could stand to pay. That’s assuming of course that those companies actually own the brick and mortar operation where people are demonstrating for higher hourly pay. The truth is that most of those restaurants are owned by franchisees that fall under the label of small business owners.

I can sympathize with the wants and needs for higher pay. This October marks 15 years since I entered the world of broadcasting, and my first job was running a teleprompter for $5.50 an hour. That was 25 cents more than the federal minimum wage at that time. Regardless, I was happy to take the job because I saw it as a way to get my foot in the door, so to speak. Still, there were times that I struggled, and I was far from a millionaire when I graduated college, got married, and took jobs in various parts of the southeastern United States. I’m still not a millionaire, but I work and save and make the tough decisions on what to have and do without. In the meantime, I try my best not to envy or covet the money and things other people possess.

I’m not saying that every person or group demonstrating for $15 an hour outside a place of business is doing so because they think they deserve a piece of what managers and owners take home. However, various people interviewed by television stations or newspapers have said the owners and companies can stand to pay more because they are multi-million dollar companies. This, I think, is a violation of the 10th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's” (Exodus 20:17).

People are not supposed to covet or desire someone else’s property. In fact, God does not want people coveting anything belonging to our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone. Jesus points that out in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Sure, the Golden Rule instructs us to treat others as we would like to be treated (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 7:12). By that standard, I could see and even accept someone’s argument that business owners could pay people more money. However, something many people do not realize is the cost of employing someone. It goes far beyond an hourly pay or salary. An employer is responsible for a number of things including insurance and Social Security payroll tax, and several other possible benefits.

If an employer raises a person’s wages, voluntarily or otherwise, that employer has to find ways to make that money back. Sometimes, jobs may be cut. The cost of the products employees make might also rise, making customers have to shell out more dough. Is that being a good neighbor? Not if we subscribe to “treat others as we would like to be treated.”

I mean, should I have to pay $3 more for milk and a six-piece chicken nugget, especially when my employer is not going to increase my pay to cover the increase in costs caused by the increase in others’ wages?

We are here to help. While Scripture shows Christ as being compassionate, I am trying to be compassionate here by saying none of us should be clamoring for what others have (i.e. money). Meanwhile, protesting or demonstrating for more money is not the best route. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16).

If you are struggling to make ends meet, go home. Make a budget. Sacrifice and go without things you do not need. People did and do live without cell phones and Internet service. Some people manage to make it to work without a vehicle, especially in cities where there is public transportation. Other people take second and third jobs. I know it’s not easy, but it does not have to be forever.

If you are not in this season of need, recognize others are. You can help out by watching someone’s kids while he or she is working or going to an interview. If you don’t know of someone in need, seek one out. Throw a donation marked to that individual in the offering plate. Just do something. It is the neighborly thing to do. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you out, if it were the other way around?


Chris Woodward

Assistant Editor, One Million Dads
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