It came out when we were looking at James 5:4 together. It’s a verse in which James condemns the wealthy for their failure to pay the wages of their employees.
4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
We weren’t quite sure that we were as guilty as the rich of James’ day were. We weren’t immediately convinced that we exploit our employees in the same way that they had. Most of us in the small group Bible study didn’t have any employees. One or two had cleaners and paid them the going rate. And those of us with kids get babysitters from time to time. And we felt convicted that we ought to take more care of them; paying above the living wage, for example. But we didn’t want to leave it at that.
And then it struck us, the fundamental mistake that the rich were making in James’ day was failing to give their employees what they had every right to expect; namely their wages. And we decided that the motivation underpinning this neglect was nothing less than a complete lack of respect. Somehow the wealthy felt justified in denying justice to people further down the employment food chain. They viewed their employees in such a way that felt it was reasonable to exploit them. The life of a less well educated, less successful and less influential person didn’t matter as much as that of their own, they thought. And we recognised that very same spirit in our own hearts.
We wondered therefore whether we overook those that work for us in some capacity. If you’re a stay at home Mum, or someone who works from home, do you know your postman’s name? If you work in an office do you know the name of your cleaner? If we don’t, could it be that we think the people beneath us are, in fact, beneath us? In principle, failing to know your cleaner’s name, is surely the same as failing to give people what they have every right to expect; not wages this time, but respect.