I recently bought some items at auction. Among the items was some personal paperwork consisting of notebooks and miscellaneous papers. I thumbed through the notebook and found a list of places in the community where one could seek financial assistance for rent, utilities, food, etc. The list was very comprehensive and included phone numbers for each of these places. What was not found in the notebook was a list of places that were hiring. I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say many times on the radio that the best place to go when you’re broke is to work. I think that is great wisdom.
As a pastor for many years I became used to the calls from people wanting assistance. Even though we were a small church we tried to help when we could with our limited finances. Occasionally, a notice would come from one of the social agencies warning that certain people were asking every church in town for help, and these people were usually cut off. Sometimes I would tell a caller that we had no funds at present and suggested they contact one of the churches that specialized in such assistance. The caller sometimes responded that these churches would not help them any more, and I knew they had reached the limit of assistance those agencies and churches would provide an individual.
People can get into financial binds sometimes through no fault of their own. Such people need to be helped, but at the same time they need to be directed to employment opportunities where they can get back on their feet with dignity. A friend of mine owns a business. He told me he’s had job openings for 2-3 years and cannot get anyone to apply. He pays a good wage with benefits and is willing to train, but there are still no takers for his jobs. We hear the same story repeated across the country.
Some people talk about raising the minimum wage, but when that happens we often find that jobs are cut as employees replace people with automation. Minimum wage jobs are supposed to be entry level positions to help people get started in the work force. No one is expected to stay in those entry level positions. It might require additional training or the development of new skills, but at some point people should seek to move up in careers where they are not making minimum wage any more. Raising the minimum wage not only costs jobs; it also removes the incentive for people to grow and advance in their lives and careers.
There is dignity in honest work. There is dignity in earning one’s way through life. There is no dignity for any able-bodied person to be dependent upon handouts from others. Let’s ensure that those who are truly needy receive the assistance they need as any civilized society would, and let’s help others rediscover the dignity of work to provide for themselves and their families.