Work and the Bible, Part 2One of the questions I have about work and the biblical understanding of work is an origin question. What is humanity's purpose? The second creation story found in Genesis 2 provides one answer to this question of why we were created. The story of creation in Genesis 2 evolves out of the writers understanding of what it means to be human and why we were created.
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:4b-9
|Calvary UCC Twin Lakes, WI Community Garden|
In this version of creation, we are meant to be farmers. Humanity is meant to care for, till the earth and produce food. So do I believe that we are all meant to be farmers and till the land for our work, the world has changed but our essential need for food has not. But part of our labor is meant to feed us. We ere created to grow food that will sustain our life. So if we are meant to labor to grow food (till the soil), what implications does this have for our current economic system and how we think about the products of labor and the uses to which that labor is put?
I have been thinking a lot about how we work for food and receive the ability to get food from our labor. So after paying for housing, utilities, car insurance, the car payment, health insurance there is little if any money left for food if you work a in a low paying job under 18 dollars an hour. For with an income where from paycheck to paycheck you pray daily that you can cover all of your bills, food is the one variable that gets cut. In the United States, in 2014 46.6% of the population received snap benefits. But just as a reference point, in Wisconsin, if you are single or in a two person family and work you may qualify for $16 (single) $32 (two) per month. I want you to consider how much food $16 dollars would get you for a month. Have you ever come out of the grocery store when buying for the week with a bill of $16 dollars. Now this means that at the most you made $1946 if single and $2622 if two of you. But that actual amount of income earned to qualify averages about $1234. Now the rule for the area of Wisconsin where I live is that you must if you are over 18 in order to qualify for benefits work 20 hours a week. So if you are a college student at the UW system during your first year you are only allowed to work 15 hours so you will be dropped from food stamps. But even if you receive them it will have cost you more to apply for the benefits and report your earnings than what you receive in the benefits. So the government is not going to be there to help if you are only able to find part time work in Wisconsin they will give you $16 dollars (1 gallon of milk, 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 2 boxes of pasta, a dozen eggs, bananas) and you have spent your allotment with taxes. So then you go to the local food pantry where you get 2 vegetables, 2 soups, 2 fruits, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, mac and cheese, a box of cereal, a bag of rice, peanut butter, jelly, a loaf of bread and a frozen meat. So you probably get to eat 2 weeks out of the 4 without putting it on a credit card if you haven't already maxed those out.
We were created to till the soil, to create food and yet hard working people do not have enough money for food. Food pantrys cannot solve this problem. Snap benefits could help if we increased the amount people received to support healthy foods. Or we as a society could see the importance of a living wage and $10.10 and hour is not a living wage. At 10.10 an hour you can not afford housing. We are created to feed each other. We are created to labor so that our bodies are nourished and fed. Will we as the religious and spiritual speak out for food justice? Will we we speak out for a living wage? Remember that we are created to bring food from the land, to create food for each other.
Sovereign God of the universe, we praise You: Your goodness sustains the world. You are the God of grace, love, and compassion, the Source of bread for all who live; for Your love is everlasting. In Your great goodness we need never lack for food; You provide food enough for all. We praise You, O God, Source of food for all who live. part of the Birkat HaMazon