Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 1st, 2014 by Joel Watts

The UMC and Rights of Workers

NJ - Morristown: Morristown United Methodist C...

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4135.Rights of Workers

I. Biblical/Theological Background

Scripture teaches that human beings, created in the image of God, have an innate dignity (Genesis 1:27). God grants dignity to work by commanding human beings to be stewards of the land and to till and keep the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). Work is one way through which human beings exercise their God-given creativity.

Scripture also teaches that an economic system should be ordered so that employees receive justice at their place of work and that concern for right relationships among people and with all of creation should be the heart of any economic system. Society and its institutions are to be structured so that marginalized persons participate fully in the shaping of society and their own future. Both the Old and the New Testaments show God’s desire that wealth and prosperity of society be shared. God’s covenant with the Jewish people required them to respect the gifts that God gave them and share them with one another. God condemned the bondage and abusive conditions the Pharaoh imposed upon the Israelites. The Hebrew Prophets decried the growing disparities of wealth and poverty. The Book of Acts describes an early Christian community that shared its goods with one another and throughout both Testaments, God’s people are urged to give special concern for widows, orphans, and immigrants. The basic principles are clear: all workers should be treated with respect and dignity, disparities of wealth and poverty should be avoided, workers should earn wages that sustain themselves and their families, and employers have a particular responsibility to treat workers fairly and empower them to organize to improve conditions.

The concern of The United Methodist Church for the dignity of workers and the rights of employees to act collectively is stated in the Social Principles. Both employer and union are called to “bargain in good faith within the frame work of the public interest” (¶ 163B). In response to the increasing globalization of the economic system, the widening disparity between rich and poor, and attempts to deprive workers of their fundamental rights, the church reaffirms its position in support of workers and their right to organize.

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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