You Shall Not Covet Your Colleague’s Income

In July 2017, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) gave details of their higher earners, those earning over £150,000 a year. They admitted that it had a gender pay problem after their pay list revealed that two-thirds of its highest-paid stars were men. Of the 96 top names earning £150,000 or more, 62 are male and 34 are female.

The Daily Telegraph reported that “The backlash from female presenters has already begun, with one well-known name saying the corporation is stuffed with ‘male “intellectual titans” with egos the size of planets’ who have demanded huge salaries and got them.”

The female response was that they should be paid the same as the men; not one of them suggested that the men’s income should be reduced to their levels!  It never works that way, does it?

I recall, many years ago, in the 1980’s that someone was recruited to the company that I worked for and was paid twice the amount that I was paid, and his region produced about half the business that mine did. It meant, that pro rata, he was being paid almost four times the rate that I was being paid. When I raised this matter, I was told that it was “market forces”, that rate had to be paid to recruit the best people in the business.  Of course, I accepted this as the company paid the salaries and the decision was theirs.  We just got on with it.

I am reminded of the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20.  We read that, early in the morning, the landowner agreed with the labourers on a rate of pay for the day and they went to work with this understanding.  The landowner did this with workers at two other different times of the day and, finally, with another group of workers towards the end of the working day.  They all received the same pay and the first set of workers, who complained about being paid the same as those who were hired late in the day, were told by the landowner that they had agreed with, and accepted, the going rate with him for their labour and they had no grounds for complaint.

We know that this parable has spiritual meaning but I am reflecting on the physical, everyday application in the work place. If this was an approach that employers took today, can you imagine the outrage by the trades unions?

As one writer said about this parable: “We covet what God chooses to give to others. A parable is essentially an elaborate allegory. We are invited to see ourselves in the story, and then apply it to ourselves.”

The outrage of the females who were paid less than the men was based on greed, envy and coveting. If this had not been the case, but just a question of everyone being treated the same financially, then they would surely have suggested reducing the salary of their male counterparts. Where money is concerned, they wanted to take advantage of the pay levels that had been given to others, which showed what they were really concerned about.

There are Scriptures that condemn the attitude of greed, envy and coveting:

Proverbs 15:27:  “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…”

Proverbs 14:30: “A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.”

Romans 7:7: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

Of course, this is clearly laid out in the 10th Commandment which states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”  And, may I add, “you shall not covet your colleague’s income!”

It is not easy when confronted by such a situation, as I know personally, but it is a necessity for a Church member. As those involved at the BBC don’t understand the Way of God, it is hardly surprising that their first port of call for guidance on this matter was not the Bible but their own innate human nature. This really comes to the fore when money, position and power are at the centre of the argument.

The good news is that we know the Way of God now and, one day, they will too!

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