So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two And Three-Quarters Cheers: Work, the Curse, and a Hard Lesson in Economics

            I wasn’t sure where else to put this topically, but someone mentioned an economic fact in an article I read recently (sorry, don’t remember the source), and it was a springboard regarding the Curse placed upon our First Parents and its economic implications.
            Let’s start at the beginning, both topically and chronologically. Adam and Eve started off living in a perfect environment. Everything was placed under their authority and was subjected to them. There was work, but this could hardly be called “work” in the same sense that we use for the term. They had perfect bodies which weren’t subject to age, sickness, or death. 
            Then. . . everything changed, and all of it in a bad way. They rebelled against the Lord, and as such the creation under them followed their example. The physical creation is no longer subject to us, and therefore we’re subject to age, sickness, etc., not to mention all the horrible spiritual consequences (which are eternal). There’s not a single aspect of the human existence which hasn’t been affected by this.
            But today I want to focus on one aspect of the Curse, as narrated in Genesis 3. Let’s take a look at it together:

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
  It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
  By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
  until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
  for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

            Yes, we have to face death, which we never did before. But there’s something else here: Frustration. Adam had work to do before the Fall, but it was never frustrating work. Before, the ground freely yielded what he wanted and needed. Now, he had to force it to do what he wanted and needed. He had to kill weeds, fight off insects, properly fertilize it, etc. If he didn’t, he’d starve.
            Now, by the sweat of his brow, he’d have to eat his food.
            It’d be bad enough if he had to put in a lot of work for his food in order to eat. But there was more. His efforts—all of his sweat that he poured into his work—would never give a perfect return on his labor. No matter what he put into it, he’d get at least some thorns and thistles in return for his labor. If you measured work in the letter W, then his return on W would never be equivalent to W; it would always be less.
            In fact, it might be nothing. Yes, in this sin-cursed world, all his labor and strife and sweat and effort might in the end be worthless. Many a farmer has put everything he has into planting a crop, only to see it destroyed by insects or by storms.
            So if all this is true, then where do tools come into play? Where does technology (from crude hammers to supercomputers) fit in? In his mercy, the Lord lets us use our God-given ingenuity (reflected in the fact that we bear his image) to improve our standard of living while here on earth. He creates trees, and we cut them down and make lumber for homes and tools and a host of other things. He gives us a world, as broken as it is, filled with hidden wonders waiting for us to uncover.
            But even with tools, we can only hold off and delay the effects of the Fall. We discover medicines, and at best they only extend our lives and health a few years beyond what we’d have without them.
            Here comes the Hard Lesson In Economics. In this fallen world, useless effort is a distinct possibility, and unless you take steps against it, it’s a certainty. Let’s apply this to the illustration I read in the article I cited earlier. Let’s say you decide to dig up holes and fill them in in your backyard. You take a shovel, dig a hole, then fill it back in again. You dig another hole, then fill it again. Same on a third hole. You could spend back-breaking hours, days, weeks, months, or even years on this. At the end of it, what would you have to show for your work? Nothing.
            And let’s take it a step further. This is something that a lot of—to be brutally frank—economically ignorant people don’t understand: Your work is going to be rewarded based on the value that other people place on it, not on the physical effort you put into it. You might have nearly killed yourself in that back yard, but no one would be willing to pay you for it. But a man with a backhoe working on a construction crew would be paid rather well in comparison. He’d even be paid much better than a man with a shovel on the same project. The boss gets more value out of the man driving the backhoe, even though the man with the shovel works harder.
            For years I've gotten Jim Geraghty's "Morning Jolt" in my email. Here's some tough love from him that we all need to hear:

The question on most people's minds is simpler still, and yet somehow too difficult for the CEOs and their enablers to comprehend: Am I so expendable as to be worth such a small paycheck ... or no paycheck at all?

The short, sad, hard, and terrifying answer is, basically, yes. More specifically, you are worth a paycheck that someone else is willing to pay, based upon what you do. If you can remove spleens, people will pay you more than if you paint, unless you're one of those rare painters who creates works that lots of people want to buy. Notice this has little to with whether or not the painting is "good." The question is whether someone will reach into their pocket and pull out money to buy it. If you accidentally spill paint on a canvas, it may resemble Jackson Pollack's "No. 5, 1948." That painting reportedly sold for $140 million; yours probably won't.

You are worth what someone is willing to pay you. All the protests in the world won't change that basic fact, and a minimum-wage hike is a miniscule mitigation of that fact. A minimum-wage hike is the government requiring someone to pay you more as a form of building popularity. Your work has not actually increased in value to your employer, which is really how you earn more.

Something — be it an object or a service, such as a certain amount of time or labor -- is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. This is a very hard lesson, and one that people will embrace considerable mental gymnastics to avoid learning.

            What’s my point here? Lots of people think that they should be paid based on their labor that they put into a job. “I’ve been busting my tail at this company for 10 years! I should be paid more!!!” I definitely sympathize with your desire to get more money, but unless you bring more value to your boss, he’s not going to pay you more.
            What you have to do—I hate to be beating a dead horse here, but this has got to sink in—is make yourself more valuable to your employer, or to another potential employer. Make yourself more marketable.
            Are you making yourself more valuable to an employer, or are you just digging the hole and filling it back in again, wondering why no one’s paying you better?

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