Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
Confronting the law
Rev. Miriam Foltz
1 Timothy 1:8
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately.
Reflection: Timothy writes that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for those who stray from the path of righteousness. But what happens when laws themselves are corrupted by sin? The existence of a law does not make it inherently just.
The Civil Rights Movement combatted the immoral legality of racism, from public transportation to employment to education. Memphis sanitation workers organized a strike against their low wages and harsh working conditions. These were two of many legal methods city leaders used to undervalue the labor of black men. Half a century later, we are still called to address the prejudicial employment practices and economic poverty perpetuated by the law.
Scripture has a lot to say about how workers are treated. Deuteronomy 5:14 commands the Israelites to extend the Sabbath to the whole community — children, slaves, livestock, and foreigners.
James 5:1 and 5:4 condemns unjust employers: “Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.… The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
Today, the laws of our nation favor corporations and people of great wealth. This is how Amazon could legally pay $0 in federal income tax, despite $11 billion in profits; yet, a minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S. Our call to seek peace and pursue it is a call to seek the welfare of our neighbors, particularly our neighbors working minimum wage jobs.
Action: The New Poor People’s Campaign is a coalition working at local and state levels to enact just economic policies, such as a $15 minimum wage. Connect with your local chapter of the campaign here: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/.
Prayer: Jesus, you are the vine, and we are the branches. Root us to grow in your Spirit. Show us your way. Speak your truth. Send us to live our lives as you would will us to live. Transform our greed to gracious giving. Amen.
Rev. Foltz serves as pastor for New Castle Presbyterian Church in New Castle, DE.
She loves reading, making music, and expanding her understanding of God and her neighbors through everyday conversations and international travel when possible.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.