March 7 - 13, 2005




Minimum wage, maximum shame


This week the mostly pro-Jesus, pro-life, pro-work and pro-family Senate passed up an opportunity to do something to improve the lives of working families. It turned down efforts to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour, where it has languished for over eight years. And leaders of the House of Representatives say there will be no vote on the minimum wage this year.


All this despite obvious need. Prices for everything have risen considerably since 1996, when the $5.15 hourly wage was set, and in some places the cost for housing alone has skyrocketed well beyond the reach of even the solidly middle class.


Also skyrocketing is the number of Americans without health insurance Ė 45 million, according to the Census Bureau Ė as employers either cut the benefit or pass more of the cost on to their low-wage workers, some of whom cannot afford the costs and wind up on public health care. It's true. The state of Iowa determined that Wal-Mart employees made up the largest block of working poor on its Medicaid rolls, followed by employees from Tyson Foods. (Click here to read an article.)


The Census Bureau also reports poverty rates rising, while wages for the bottom 20 percent of workers lag inflation. At the same time, income is soaring for those in upper income brackets. (Click here to read a report.)


Congress hasnít given minimum-wage earners Ė who take home just over  $10,000 annually -- a raise in eight years. But in that time Congressmen and Senators voted themselves raises totaling $28,000, making their pay $162,000.


Adequate pay for hard work is not only a political and economic issue, itís an issue of stewardship and morality. The United States is the richest and most powerful nation the planet has ever known. Moreover, it is one of the most Christian in the world.


Iíll end with Jesusí teaching in Matthew 25:41-46:


Then [the king] will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


-Rob Blezard, webmaster and editor


New This Week:



 Stewardship commitment programs that contribute to transformation and conversion

This resource from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C.,  provides an overview of five basic types of stewardship commitment programs and explores their pros and cons. Great for the congregation weighing a number of options for this year's campaign. Click here for the resource. From the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The PDF document requires Adobe Reader. Click here for a free download of Adobe Reader.



 Tithing provides a flow for generosity
"Tithing is not a miracle cure.  We do not suddenly have whole hearts like God's when we learn to tithe.  But when God performs this shunt and allows a free flow from our heart then our whole being pinks up and the possibilities for new life and growth abound." Click here for Pastor Dana Reardon's weekly column.




What your retirement planner doesn't tell you

Ė Plan to give your life away

"I don't think of retirement at all, at least not in terms of idle comfort. The alternative to retiring comfortably is not to retire uncomfortably, but to live as an offering to God and of God. I understand my life as a gift that is managed so that I can afford to give it away at any age. I believe I should organize my life as if it were something to use up, to give away, to expend." Click here for this inspiring essay. From Christianity Today.



Crisis or Opportunity?
Since the 1960s, mission support has declined across all denominations, including the ELCA.

"If the resources continue to decline, we'll need to cut programs--programs that make a real difference in people's lives," says ELCA treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton. "That will have to involve careful choices and conversation with synods about how needs are going to be met in light of those reductions." Click here for Crisis or Opportunity. From the March 2004 issue of The Lutheran magazine. (And check out the Study Guide written for this piece.)




 Stewardship for Rookies

This time of year ELCA Stewardship Columnist Tuck Aaker gets a lot of mail from newly elected stewardship leaders with a common question: HOW DO I START! He writes, "The place to begin is by understanding that you didnít come to this subject by accident. You were selected by someone in your leadership to "fill this slot" and the reason they called on you is because God put your name in that personís mind." Click here for the column.