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Start early, start late, no difference in pay

first_img 109 Views   no discussions Tweet Share Share Eastern Caribbean Currency. Photo credit: neogaf.comThe parable in this weekend’s gospel has always seemed to endorse unfair dealing. The landowner goes out at different times of the day and finds workers idle. He offers them employment and promises to pay them “what is just.” “What is just” turns out to mean the same pay, whether you took up work early or late. To the early worker who complains about unfair treatment, the landowner replies that he got what he agreed to, so what’s to complain about? Are you against me because I am generous, he adds? It’s my money, and I can do with it whatever I please.Well, not so fast. The mere fact that parties agree to make a deal is not enough to make it fair. Consent may make it legal, but consent alone may not be sufficient to make it moral. And that for several reasons: a woeful imbalance between the parties; one party with practically no choice – either consent to terrible wages or starvation; one party with knowledge of the real value of the matter, trading on the other’s ignorance, and so on. We also remember Don Corleone’s famous words in The Godfather: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” This constitutes perhaps an extreme suggestion of the sort of pressure that hovers over many agreements.Actual contracts are thus not morally self-justifying. They must also satisfy some independent standard. The landowner adds that the standard is his right to dispose of his property in whatever way he sees fit. Once again, people’s right to possess their own property is unassailable, but other considerations come into play when they decide to treat with others on the basis of possession. Tenants, for instance, will have rights; so will visitors, as the law recognizes, though not trespassers. In other words, what the owner alone thinks is insufficient to determine the morality governing the use of possessions.What are we to conclude from the foregoing regarding our understanding of the parable? Something obvious, I think. It is that to interpret it in terms of labor relations or the moral use of possessions is clearly not the place to go. The parable must be getting at something else.Our attention is drawn instead, I think, to a principle that has become prominent in recent years in the way the Church understands its social teaching. It’s the principle of God’s preferential option or preferential love for the poor. The principle has not always been well understood. It seems to suggest, and many have erroneously taken it to suggest, that God loves the poor more than he loves other people. They insist that God loves us all equally, as the preeminently good father that he is. No one get more love than anybody else; no one gets less.What the principle draws attention to, however, is something we know and find completely acceptable. Many families have children with special needs, a child, for instance, with Down Syndrome. The love the parents bestow on that child is quite unlike the love given to the other children. It’s special, because the child is special. Moreover, the other siblings often join their parents in lavishing love and care on the child, and do not for a moment think that their parents fail them in terms of equality. They recognize in their own love for such a brother or sister that equality is not identity.God has a preferential love for the poor in a sense analogous to this. Well-to-do though not necessarily rich people can usually look after themselves. They are not without resources or avenues where resources are available. The poor usually have no one but themselves. That’s why God takes their side. Among those needing help, their need is special.We don’t have to interpret need or poverty only in material terms. Those who are poor in any area of life can similarly see themselves as objects of God’s special care. Biblical wisdom completely endorses this. We have a saying, which aims to provide encouragement with bracing moralism, that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ The Bible in fact says quite the opposite. It says that God helps those who are incapable of helping themselves.To think then that a preferential love on God’s part means a deprivation of equality is a mistake, disproved in experience we ourselves can recognize. When we help the poor, therefore, we do not simply perform an act of charity – or indeed of justice. We act in accordance with the mind and heart of God. God’s special love creates in us a desire to love in a similar way.By: Father Henry Charles Ph.dcenter_img Sharing is caring! FaithLifestyleLocalNews Start early, start late, no difference in pay by: – September 17, 2011 Sharelast_img read more