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Paying Well: Loving Others Through Fair Wages

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“The extra income is a Godsend,” she said. I’d just landed a fairly large new account, one I’d need help managing, so I’d asked one of my regular freelancers if she could take on more work. With two children and three new foster kids arriving at her home soon, the extra money definitely helps.

At the same time, another request came in to do pro-bono work for a friend. Of course I wanted to help out. I could likely get some referral business out of it, but I have mouths to feed, too.

As long as I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve wrestled with how much to charge for my work—and how much to give away. Still, getting paid what I’m worth is important to me for practical and theological reasons. The Bible speaks a great deal on the subject of work and paying/being paid well.

Woe to the Cheapskate

One common literary form Jeremiah used in his writings is the “woe,” where he delivers God’s judgment on certain acts. He even addresses wicked leaders who take advantage of others:

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages. (Jer. 22:13, ESV, emphasis mine)

God is not a fan of taking advantage of other people and reserves severe penalty for those who do.

Paul’s Perspective on Wages

In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses an interesting example when speaking of justification by faith. In chapter 4, he says that it’s not by human effort that we obtain righteousness. Then, in verse 4 he makes the statement, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.”

Even if getting paid what you’re worth isn’t the point of the passage, Paul was quoting a commonly-held belief of both the Jewish and Roman people. He wasn’t discrediting it as it relates to work itself; he was upholding it!

Paul’s views on the value of work echo the teachings of Jesus throughout the Gospels. We also know Paul supported himself by working as a tentmaker. This idea of working and earning a fair wage was a reality for people like Paul.

Practical Thoughts on the Economy of Paying Well

As I think about this issue of paying people well for their work, I remember a statement Jesus made in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

To show the world that I follow Christ, I need to display love in every way possible. That’s why I offered to pay the freelancer I mentioned earlier twenty dollars per hour, instead of her asked-for rate of fifteen dollars per hour. Paying the higher wage allows her to earn extra income, and it feeds the economy by increasing her spending capacity.

When my clients pay me well, it enables me to support my family. The more my business grows, the more I am able to turn around and pay others well as they help me manage the workload. It’s Economics 101 in action!

I’ve studied small business success over the last few years, and the more I learn what it means to love well, the more I’ve stopped looking for freebies and started paying well. The result? As I earn a fair wage for my work, I’ve become an example of what a Christian entrepreneur can accomplish in the marketplace. And as I pay others a fair wage for their work, I’ve been able to bless others through God’s economy.

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Paying Well

After we published a week of content with the theme heading Making Money, we received a message encouraging us to consider the flip side, as well. What about Christians who fail to pay well, who complain about leaving a tip or who balk at paying an honest rate, especially when doing business with other Christians? What does the Bible have to say about this, and what is fair to expect when doing business with Christians and non-Christians alike? Is there a difference? Should there be? What has been your experience? Join us for this series, Paying Well, as we consider personal stories and biblical instruction for leading well as Christians in the world, especially when it comes to determining what to pay.

Featured image by George Redgrave. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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