Without Alice, the gears of our society would grind to a halt. You’ve probably seen her hard at work, but maybe you didn’t take careful notice of her. Alice is our neighbor. She cares for our children and for our elderly. She waits tables, checks us out at the grocery store, and repairs our cars.
Despite all her hard work and careful penny-pinching, Alice’s bills exceed her income. The combined cost of housing, health care, food, and transportation stretch her take-home pay beyond the breaking point.
Alice, or ALICE, stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. She works hard, and still her resources cannot stretch far enough to provide for a decent way of life. In Louisiana, the United Way’s ALICE Report tells us that 576,381 households are ALICE. That’s 33% of our our families.
An additional 18% live in poverty. That means that 51% of all Louisiana households do not have enough to keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and medicine for themselves and their children. The loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded their struggle. Hurricane Laura’s impact is yet to be fully known.
The statistics vary from state to state, but we can find Alice in large numbers all across this country. And because I follow Jesus, I cannot see this reality as just Alice’s problem. Alice is my neighbor. And Jesus taught me to love my neighbor as myself. So Alice and I face a common challenge: making a world where everybody has enough.
Before I go one step further, I want to acknowledge that some people will say that—given her education or ability or skills in this economy—Alice is getting what she deserves. A few people even have a bumper sticker on their car that reads: Nobody Owes You Anything.
Well, that is your view of things and I won’t try to persuade you otherwise. All I can say is that I can’t square that bumper sticker with what Jesus teaches me, so I’m going to respond to Alice’s situation in a different way. I think we’re in this messy world together. My well-being cannot be divorced from hers. So I’ll work with her to find a way for both of us to have enough.
Now Jesus was not an economist in the sense that we think of that profession today. But he had something profound—and startling—to say to us about the spiritual depths of our economic lives. God wants everyone to have enough. And deserving has nothing to do with it.
Consider the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. A vineyard owner hires a group of workers at sunrise, promising them the usual daily wage: enough to live a decent life. He picks up another crew mid-morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and then just before quitting time.
As the workday ends, the owner lines up the crews in reverse order of their hiring. Those who worked barely an hour, then those who came in the afternoon, then noon, and then mid-morning. Each group got the same thing: the usual daily wage, enough to live a decent life.
Finally the crew that had worked from sunup to sundown got to the payroll office. And they got the usual daily wage.
They were furious. “We worked all day and got the same thing as those slackers who only worked a fraction of the time. They don’t deserve that! We deserve more!”
The owner in essence says, “Deserving has nothing to do with it. This is about my generosity. I have enough for everybody to have enough. So I give it freely. Are you now dissatisfied with enough?” (Matthew 20:1-16)
The message is stunning, really. Enough will never be enough for me unless I want it for everybody else.
An Invitation to an In-Person Conversation
I invite you to join me Thursday evenings in October for a four-part virtual series discussing the power of love in our everyday lives.
A Love Shaped Life: The Meaning of the Resurrection
October 1: Letting Go to Really Live
October 8: Growing Beyond Your Past
October 15: How to Forgive Yourself
October 22: Mending Broken Relationships
Each session begins at 6:00 p.m. CDT. I will discuss the week’s topic for about 20 minutes and then respond to questions and comments for the remainder of the hour.
No charge. No Registration. Just come on by. Everyone is invited, but there is limited space.
For the Zoom link click here on the night of the conversation: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81224620632?pwd=V1V1dmJGQW12djZmb2hDVWp0a1lZZz09
The sessions are based on my book A Resurrection Shaped Life. To learn more about the book, read reviews, or buy a copy click here: https://tinyurl.com/y5uyet2n
I donate all proceeds from book sales to ministries in the broader community such as Community Renewal International.
Thanks Jake for this. I am a strong supporter of a company back in the UK, the John Lewis Partnership, they own several department stores and supermarkets, and operate as an employee stock-owned partnership. What that means is that they have not laid anybody off despite weathering two world wars, several financial crises, and a pandemic. What they do have are employees, the majority of which are female, who are paid well, given generous benefits (not healthcare as that is provided by the National Health Service) but benefits like childcare, and annual profits bonuses, and company stock. If this system, ESOP, could be encouraged in the USA, companies like Walmart/Sams would see all employees well paid and at the current share price, owning over $150,000 of stock per employee, which would go a long way to providing the security needed for home ownership or advanced education that could change the economic face of America for the future. It would require several people of the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and members of the Walton family to be inspired by the generosity of John Spadden Lewis which he shared with his employees, after all, they do the work and should reap the reward. Amen.
That is a wonderful story and a great moral example! I do pray that we might learn and emulate its lessons.
Thank you for this and all your messages past.
It truly tugs on one’s heartstrings.
Bringing back memories of my mom.
She would say, “Enough is Enough!”
right before I got a well deserved spanking!
Have a Blessed weekend,
John and Phyllis Ramares
Thank you, John & Phyllis! I hope you have a lovely weekend, too!
Thank you for this blog, Jake! It has been too long… we are settling into the new call in Carrollton, GA. In temporary quarters until we close on our house. Hopefully on Oct 9th.
Good to hear from you, Michael! I used to run in what was then the Carrollton Relays. I have no idea if that event still exists, but I certainly know where you’ve set up camp! Blessings, my friend!
That is so cool! I will look it up!
It is stunning Jake, when so many of us are just looking out for ourselves. Just this minute I read about Archie Williams from Baton Rouge, a black man wrongfully imprisoned in ‘Angola’ for 37 years, freed in the 1980s. While he was in prison he served as a minister and sang with bands. He’s in ‘America’s Got Talent’ but intends afterwards to return to Baton Rouge to help others who may be falsely accused. Not exactly on topic for here, but you know, the generosity of heart and grace that he’s demonstrating in his life really touched me.
That’s a powerful story. There is much to be said about the prison system in Louisiana and across the United States. For the most part, it will only make your heart sink. People like Mr. Williams help to keep me pressing on.
I saw him on America’s got talent. So inspiring. God’s peace.
Wow, that’s wonderful! thank you.
Bishop Jake, I truly enjoy all of your articles. Keep up the good work. Deacon Ted Moulard, Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria, La.
Thank you Deacon Ted
Yes! This is a powerful reminder.
There is an old Cornish saying, “Enough is as good as a feast.” It is a warning against greed of any kind and a reminder to share with others.
Wise words to live by
Thank you so much. Bishop Jake. Such a blessing. God’s peace.
Thank you for the like.
Our power went out during the hurricane Laura. Of course many people had that happen. It was a situation which reminds us How blessed we are to have to have what we need. Thank you God.