Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jesus & The Minimum Wage: Why a Baptist and an Atheist Agree on Economics

By Shane Kastler

In the ongoing debate concerning minimum wage laws, a Christian might be prone to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” or “What DID Jesus do?” or perhaps most importantly “What did Jesus SAY for US to do?” Or course the answer would be “nothing.” At least nothing directly. So to try and arrive at a Christian position on the issue would require us taking a full-orbed look at his overall teaching and find principles that might lead us to where we should stand on the minimum wage.

A recent debate at Loyola University, on minimum wage laws, was absolutely dripping with irony for a man like me. Dr. Walter Block, an economist and an atheist argued against minimum wage laws, while Christian theologian Dr. Boyd Blundell argued in favor of them. The first irony for me was that I (an ordained Baptist minister) was in full agreement with Block, the atheist, on this issue. Where it gets complex, from my theological/analytical perspective, is that Block uses his brilliant mind, along with laws of logic that govern his thought processes to analyze economic realities that are also quite “law like” to come to a conclusion, which I believe is correct. Minimum wage laws should be abolished because they don't really help the poor that they claim to help. Block's use of logic and universal laws very much suggest a certain order which exists in our world. And such beautiful, consistent, unfailing laws of order seem to suggest someone behind it all who has established said order. Atheism cannot account for such pristine examples of order; for in atheism everything is random and up for grabs. Yet atheists, like Dr. Block, gladly use the incredible intellect (given by God) and the laws of logic, economics, or science (established by God), to come to conclusions that are accurate. We should thank God that Block uses God's gifts to come to such prescient conclusions; while marveling that he denies this very God even exists. But back to Christian economics.

Would Jesus demand a government enforced minimum wage? Of course the arguments for this come from the fact that Jesus' told his followers to care for the poor. Certainly providing for the less fortunate is a Christian principle. While no Christian would deny this; the sticking point is how Jesus would envision us engaging in our benevolence. Would the government be in charge of this? Or more to the point, would the government be involved at all? Let us not forget that Jesus' relationship with the government of his day was somewhat (shall we say) strained. He was crucified you know; by the Roman government (state) on the firm recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin (local). All governing authorities aligned against the Lord and he was executed as a criminal of the state. So now, are we to believe that Jesus would expect this same world system (albeit a different nation and a different century) should be charged with caring for the poor?

One major fly in this ointment is that Jesus was calling his followers (not the government) to show mercy to the poor. And for it to be true mercy, it must be an act performed from a pure, loving, and un-coerced heart. The old axiom is very true: “If I reach in my pocket and give you money for food it's charity. But if someone else reaches in my pocket and gives you money for food it's thievery.” From a Christian perspective, the government cannot force benevolence upon us because forced benevolence ceases to be benevolence once the force is inflicted. Forced benevolence is coercion. And I promise you Jesus was not teaching and promoting coercion. Minimum wage laws, like all other forms of government intrusion into economic matters, involves coercion. Blame it on Washington. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on the President. But don't blame it on Jesus.

Minimum wage laws further drift from Christian principles in that they allow a third party to dictate the terms of a two party agreement. If I, as an employee, am satisfied with the wage offered; and the government steps in and insists that it must be higher; they insult me. They suggest I'm too stupid or weak to handle my own financial affairs. As an employer, if the government steps in demanding I pay more, they equally insult me by implying that I'm unfair. But if the boss is happy and the worker is happy; what right has the government to step in with insulting behavior? Is there anything remotely Christian about that? Not at all.

One final thought. While statistics might be legitimately used or slyly manipulated to prove either side of the issue; common sense and observation tells us that by forcing companies to raise wages, some jobs get eliminated. If an employee is paid more than they earn for the company they are parasitic and will not last. That worker will have to go; or that position will have to go; but something's got to give. The poor go from $10/hr to zero because their job is gone. Is this what Jesus would have us do to the poor? Eliminate their jobs all together?

So we come full circle in our irony and back to the Block-Blundell debate. I, as a Baptist theologian, using the Bible, conclude through my “Christianized” logic that the atheist Walter Block is indeed correct in his stance that minimum wage laws should be abolished. The government has no business setting wages and to do so is harmful to the poor; and to everyone else as well. And I conclude that Dr. Boyd Blundell, the Christian, is wrong. Jesus, in his earthly days, was not pushing for minimum wage laws. And would not encourage us to do so today. They don't help the poor, they hurt the poor. They insult both the employer and the employee. And they involve coerced benevolence which is no benevolence at all. If a Baptist like me; and an atheist like Walter Block can figure these things out; then maybe there's hope for the rest of America as well. Maybe. But I doubt it.

Shane Kastler is Pastor at the Heritage Baptist Church, Lake Charles, LA and Co-Host; "Church & State" KELB Radio, 100.5 FM. He blogs at The Narrow Road.


  1. We already have Jesus, teaching on the matter:

    3 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

    You can read the whole passage here:

    1. You're misunderstanding the parable. Jesus is talking about attaining eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, not minimum wages. Read Matthew 20:1-16 in relation to Matthew 19:27-30. See also Romans 9:20-24.

    2. Yes, eternal life. But, that is to be given by the owner of this creation. In other words, the same principles apply with the relationship of owner and his property. A progressive Christian may say that "well, that only applies to God and His decisions". This, however, flies in the face of God stating of "multiply and subdue the Earth" in order to thrive and take out His laws of economics and other things that He gave to us. Again, just as Paul stated in Romans and Jesus in your chosen versus alluded to: who are we, if not owner of the property, to contradict the owner's decision.

      God decides who has eternal life, which most people hate. Owners (human) get to decide by his/her decision, possibly by contract, of what happens to his/her property, which the democratic mob hates. Individuals decide how to contract and with whom, which the state hates.

    3. Please tell me you don't actually think the passage you quoted was discussing minimum wages? I've got news for many "Christians" out there. The Bible says NOTHING about minimum wages. That is a MODERN invention.

      BTW, the bible is not a magic book. It can't be used for every single solitary subject on Earth. Quit being so superstitious about it. Geez!

    4. For crying out loud, people. I know it is a parable about salvation. Geeeez, weeez.

      Parables use things, customs and general knowledge of a particular topic to teach about a spiritual truth. The parable, in this case, is using the fact that people are free to contract their labor in exchange for a wage.

      Parables, can only be understood if the real life "carrier" is known to the hearers.

      Other parables regarding contracts is the parable of the absent landlord. Private contracts and agreements. That was the common, daily living events that Jesus is using to teach spiritual truths.

      Do I really need to explain how the parable of the "last shall be first" violate the idea of minimum wages?

      How do y'all, then,ngo about understanding parables?

  2. I think its pretty clear Jesus would have held to the non aggression principle.

  3. "...the laws of logic, economics, or science (established by God)..." This seems to be a difficult thing for a lot of Christians to comprehend. As if "laws of logic" (or logic of laws) can only be given and dictated by the state to handle. As if God simply gave His power of logic to a human organization called government, and that government can make things right by implementing laws that will change the invisible (and uncontrollable) force of God's established laws of logic, economics, and science.

    Hence, why people lose their jobs when the minimum wage increases. Hence, why tyranny falls back onto us because we celebrate within churches the young going off to war.

  4. Is there a mention that austrian economics has it's roots in catholic teaching? Ie, school of Salamanca and me her making reference to them

  5. While I agree with Dr. Block and Pastor Kastler concerning the effectiveness of minimum wage laws, I fail to see why Christianity is being brought into this at all. Whether or not a minimum wage law is abolished is an issue with a worldly kingdom, not the Kingdom of God. Jesus was more concerned with preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God than he was with correcting all the wrongs associated with worldly kingdoms. After all, every worldly kingdom will eventually be destroyed and the Kingdom of God will finally be fully established. I'm not against discussing worldly economics, but let's not make the mistake of saying Jesus supports our worldly convictions (whatever they may be).

    1. ".... I fail to see why Christianity is being brought into this at all."

      Because the debate between Block an Dunderhead involved the minimum wage and religion. There are people dumb enough to link the bible with almost anything.

    2. 1. It's not "worldly" economics or worldly anything for that matter. It's just is.
      2. You speak, perhaps arrogantly, as if people ought to believe your eschatology and dualistic-kingdom. A lot of people here understand where you're coming from, but you don't seem, maybe even willingly, to understand what folks here believe.
      3. Read Gary North. He's a Christian and an economists. He'll explain away your confusion.

    3. "Whether or not a minimum wage law is abolished is an issue with a worldly kingdom, not the Kingdom of God."

      So, stealing isn't a concern of God? Unbelievable, as Mike said before, just because government does it, doesn't mean it some how it's magically turned into good. IT'S STILL STEALING! You know Thou shalt not STEAL.

      You only say "fail to see" anything because you've chosen to believe a lie for so long, and you don't want to admit otherwise.

    4. @JuWuSchu:
      1. It's worldly economics. Jesus preaches the kingdom of God and not how earthly kingdoms should conduct themselves. Nothing of this world is worthy of Him. Earthly kingdoms are all going away, and not by man's doing.
      2. It's not "my" belief, it's God's word. And I take Him at His word. I understand where people here are coming from, and I largely agree with them when it comes to worldly affairs. But to say Jesus supported xyz political/economic ideology is attempting to pigeonhole His teaching into that ideology when He wasn't even concerned with worldly ideologies. The kingdom of God doesn't press into worldly ideologies, men press into it. Ideological movements love to think Jesus is on their side, when that's simply not the case in reality.
      3. I have read some of Gary North's work, and I enjoy watching his Mises Institute lectures occasionally. But when it comes to God, I take no man's word for it and accept no man's interpretation unless it be proven by scripture. I read the Bible for myself, I pray, and otherwise continue to walk in a love-faith relationship with the Lord. He has preserved His word and it doesn't require interpretation by any "authority" to be understood. Calvin was just one more theologian that muddled God's word throughout history (see also Martin Luther, Augustine, etc). You're correct in saying he'll "explain away" things, but it won't be my non-existent confusion; instead, it'll be God's word through his Calvinistic lens. I'm sure he means well, but any professing Christian who chooses to follow theologians rather than Jesus is walking on shaky ground.

      @Anon 3:45

      Not once did I say stealing is good, be it by the government or any other entity. I said Jesus preached the kingdom of God, not minimum wage laws (or the abolition thereof). And He made it abundantly clear that the kingdoms of this world would be opposed to the kingdom of God. Straw man arguments aren't going to get you very far.

    5. @Anon 11:24

      You've shown why people shouldn't vote. Everybody is wrong about truth but you, apparently.

      As for every movement wants Jesus on their side, well yes. Everybody wants to have Truth on their side, but this can only be revealed as true through knowledge and study of subjects and a sense of humbleness and correction. Can truth be split into "worldly" truth and godly truth? But, is Truth a person or simply an idea?

      As for your response to the (other) Anon, why bother reading about minimum wages or reading Mises if it's just worldly to do so? Why bother being on here commenting; shouldn't you be on the street corner preaching a repetition?

  6. Excellent article! Pastor Kastler understands scripture, unlike Dr. Blundell.

  7. To anon @ 10:59

    Yes, Jesus is talking about eternal life, but he positively references the example of a business owner employing workers.

    And, just how does Jesus plan on issuing eternal life? Answer: The way that he sees fit. If he wants to give it to someone who has served him for years and also provide the same blessing to someone who has served him for minutes, he can do this and be true to his word.

    In order to drive this point home, Jesus uses the example of business owner who has employees. They did not have the lunacy of a minimum wage in the first century, so his parable rang the bell of common sense to his hearers.

    1. The teaching behind that parable says nothing about minimum wages. You're reading into the narrative to support your ideology. I happen to agree with you that minimum wage laws are nonsense, but I don't make the mistake of saying Jesus does or does not support my view based on his teaching.

  8. Mr. Wenzel, how about inviting Randy England to your show? He is a Catholic libertarian and he wrote the book "Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics should be libertarian"