"The Biblical View on Minimum Wage, Part 2"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
Both the employee and the employer have biblical duties in fulfilling free will contracts. Employees are biblically commanded to serve their employer as they would serve Christ (Eph. 6:5-7). Although the Ephesian 6 passage is directed to a bond servant or a slave, in application anyone who works for wages and subjugates his services to another’s rule falls into the broad category of a servant. The employee must not only do his job when being watched by the boss, which is called eye service, but should, rather, labor knowing that God is watching and therefore serve with his whole heart. When a laborer enters a contract with his free will, he has submitted his service as part of his dominion mandate and the employer is to be viewed as collaborating with him as he stewards his assets. (I Tim. 6:1)
Employers are biblically commanded to operate in like manner as the employees by doing good service as unto the Lord. They are not to threaten the workers but to remember that both the worker and the employer have the same Master in heaven and that God has no favorites (Eph. 6:7-9). All persons should be treated with brotherly love and without partiality as to their economic status (I Jn. 4:20-21; James 2:1-9). The man who pays wages has a special admonition upon him to protect the interest of the worker and not to exploit any inherent weakness. Leviticus 19:13-14 calls for prompt payment of wages and sets that prompt payment in the context of not cursing the deaf nor placing a stumbling block before the blind. A deaf man could not hear the curse being hurled at him nor could a blind man see who tripped him. The inherit weakness of both would hinder them from defending themselves. In like manner, a man bartering with his services might be at a disadvantage to the stronger employer. He might be less able to defend himself against an injustice perpetrated by the boss. Therefore, the text reminds the one paying the wage to remember to “fear thy God, for I am the Lord.” True righteousness defends the widows and the orphans, another category of persons who could be exploited by the strong or more affluent (James 1:27). Employers are to be defenders of those who work for them rather than exploiting any weakness for personal or financial gain.
Free will must not be violated during the process of making contracts. When one party extracts from the other party that which they would not, under non-coerced circumstances be willing to yield, the contract has been corrupted by plunder. Not only can the parties involved be guilty of either violent or non-violent coercion is contract negotiations, but the civil realm often injects legislations that forces the hand of one or the other side to place within the contract that which does not arise from free will but rather from the fear of the sword-wielding state. The civil government’s interference in free-will contracts often falls into the category of plunder.
According to the American Dictionary of the English Language 1828 by Noah Webster, the transitive verb plunder means: “To take by pillage or open force. . . to rob, as a thief; to take from; to strip; as the thief plundered the house or the robber plundered a man of his money and watch; pirates plundered ships and men.” Simply defined, plunder is the forceful seizing of the products of another person’s labor.
Society is always against illegal plunder. Civil laws against theft traditionally flow from Commandment #8, “Thou shall not steal.” When one neighbor forcefully confiscates the goods of his neighbor by theft, robbery, or fraud, the wronged party and the community cry out for justice. The role of the civil is not only to make laws against plunder but also to arrest, try, and sentence the guilty. When the civil realm fulfills that role, plunder is not tolerated; justice is practiced; personal property rights are protected; the condemned lawbreaker cannot continue to harm society.
When discussing the concept of plunder, a social order must consider four options: everyone may plunder everyone; no one may plunder anyone; a few may plunder many; or many may plunder a few. Certainly the first option of everyone plundering everyone is easily seen as societal breakdown, lawlessness, and chaos. In either the few plundering the many or the many plundering the few, people are having their private property forcefully seized. The act of theft is a breach of Commandments #8 and #9 and a crime against which the civil is charged to protect its citizens. The obvious choice is that no one is allowed to plunder anyone. The civil realm is mandated to use law and its accompanied force to protect all citizens equally without bias or prejudice. A marketplace free of plunder fosters trust between parties making contracts and encourages collaboration in the dominion assignment.
Just as it is biblically immoral and illegal for an individual or a group to plunder, it is immoral and illegal for the civil realm to plunder. A condition sometimes referred to as legal plunder occurs when the civil punishes the individuals who plunder and then turns and becomes the agent of plunder and exempts itself from prosecution. Biblically speaking, the civil realm may not appropriate powers to itself that are not within its God-given jurisdiction. Law is power, and the power of law may not be used to give the civil realm right to forcefully confiscate from the few to give to the many or from the many to give to the few. Instead of checking crime, the law itself becomes guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish. Plunder is biblically illegal whether practiced by the private sector or by the civil realm.
Legal plunder has many names, for example: tariffs, subsidies, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, right to work, and minimum wage. In every example listed, the civil realm introduces into contracts forced stipulations that the parties entering the contract might not otherwise freely agree upon. Rights and liberties of either the employer or the employee are forcibly limited or removed, and the fruit of labor is stripped without consent or compensation from its legal owner.
Legal plunder often begins in the name of protectionism or the ideal of philanthropy. Although the civil is charged to equally protect all citizens, its protection extends to legislating and prosecuting criminal activities perpetrated against everyone and not to providing equal social or economic conditions for everyone. Equalizing living conditions is beyond civil authority. God has appointed other agencies to provide for philanthropy and to oversee social causes. The family, the church, and by extension voluntary organizations are mandated to speak and lead in those realms.
Voluntary contracts must be made between persons or groups of persons without civil regulatory plunder. The creation of contracts may be influenced by collective bargaining, which means a group of individuals may voluntarily join together to help influence the outcome of the contract. The groups are often the employees seeking worker’s rights and benefits but employers may also league together for the purpose of contract negotiation. Such groups may not use force or threat of force to sway the outcome of the negotiations as that constitutes coercion and leads to plunder. These groups constitute fraternal associations, meaning that men associate together as a brotherhood for common interests. The formation of fraternal groups within the marketplace is not forbidden in scripture, and they often serve to guarantee a higher level of justice in contract making. However, fraternal organization may not league with the civil realm. Laws may not be written to introduce a coercive element for either side in the contract making process. Contracts must be free will without the power of the civil realm to plunder.
Those fraternal organizations sometimes called unions are not unbiblical unless they employ fraudulent or compulsory tactics or unless they league with the civil to force the opposite side of the contract negotiation to surrender what it would not voluntarily surrender unless the threat of force had been introduced. Unions are only biblical if they are voluntary, fraternal organizations and completely free of civil empowerment. Organic, natural and free organizations and unity occur among men under God’s providence. However, forced fraternity and artificial unity deprives people of individual liberty and responsibility; and it results in plunder.