Monday in the Third Week of Lent: The Working Poor and Underemployment

Read: Micah 6:8

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

The Five Marks of Mission: The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

To respond to human need by loving service

To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Watch

Reflect

For three and a half years, I dropped out of the professional world and worked at a well-known “Big Box” store. I stacked shelves, unloaded trucks, and ran cash registers. What I learned about the lives of the working poor changed my faith.

I discovered that our employer did not guarantee a set schedule and often intentionally kept workers parttime. One week I might have forty hours, the next week only thirty. The shifts I worked changed weekly. My income was unreliable and planning my life impossible. Meanwhile, Big Box’s profits soared while my hourly wage remained under ten dollars.

I think of Bob, who unloaded trucks all day but still depended on assistance to feed his family. Or Sue, who worked night shift because she had no front teeth, and management did not want her among the public. Bob and Sue were trapped in poverty, so alienated that they embraced that alienation, covering themselves with tattoos and anesthetizing themselves with substances.

Their behaviors appeared self-destructive, and they embodied generational poverty.

Some answers? Presence, advocacy, and community.

We can be present in the lives of the poor, not merely visitors. The working poor often cannot come to church because they are working or recovering from work. We might take church to them instead of waiting for them to come to us.

We can advocate for the sake of the poor. The conscience of business leaders can be better formed, the loopholes in workers’ rights abolished, and the skills of the unskilled improved. We can replace the notion of a minimum wage with a livable wage.

If we familiarize ourselves with the culture of poverty, we might create a more welcoming community to the poor. We might, for example, arrange events and liturgies in which all of us could participate.

We might then better embody the peaceable reign of God, promised by Jesus.

Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, your prophets have instructed us that we need to do justice as much as we show mercy, walking in humble obedience to your will. We ask you for the courage to transform the injustices of our world with the same vigor that we respond with loving service to the needs of your brothers and sisters. Help us reconcile our lives to the lives of the poor and the oppressed, and be a living example of your love for all. We ask this in your name, O Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Author

Kevin McGrane is a deacon who serves at St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
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