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From the Pews | Making Our Unjust Economic System Work for All

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This week marks the cultural celebration of the end of the summer in the U.S.

We have celebrated Labor Day since 1885 as a way to remember the social and economic success of the American worker.

To many, Monday’s celebration was the last day to spend time with friends and family around a body of water before turning our attention to the seasons changing and to being in the routine of work and a new school year.

But what if, instead of celebrating the economic and social success of the American worker, we asked ourselves the very difficult question of whether our economy is working for many or just for some?

According to Feeding America, one in eight people in the U.S. are hungry. This is over 10% of our population who are living in poverty and food insecurity.

Even those who are making a living wage are struggling to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck.

Forbes reports that 78% of Americans fall in this category. The stress and anxiety of living this way is showing up in our mental and physical health.

The richest 10% of our population now represents 70% of all the wealth in America.

Our economy is benefiting only 10% of those who live in our country and those who are benefiting from the economy are already very wealthy.

We are out of balance, stressed out and out of sorts.

Amid this reality, we often find ourselves competing to look like we are doing better than others.

Instead of coming together to fight an unjust system, we are focused on having nicer houses, better cars and traveling to exotic vacations. This broken system has laid claim on our hearts and minds.

Even as we find ourselves competing with each other, the voice of Jesus is whispering: “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25).

Indeed, the gospel message is asking us to re-examine our priorities and where our attention is.

Instead of working for more, perhaps we should work for better.

A better system where people don’t have to worry about their food or decide between buying groceries or a new pair of shoes.

A better system where we don’t benefit off each other, but where we share what we have, recognizing that what we have is not our own but from God.

Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.