Recently, an anonymous reader of my blog commented on one of my earlier posts about some of the struggles faced by contemporary workers in the gig economy. Here are a couple of his comments, to set the stage for the discussion that will follow:
- Rise of Gig Economy
- Huge focus for Employees to create Compensation based on Commissions
- Business models are obsessed with UHNW rich individuals particuarly billionaires but then billionaires of UHNW individuals never pay back!!!”
I am struggling in these environments – hunting for UHNW that never pay after the job is finished with employers that hold back on salaries, expenses that are born and mounting shoe leather costs. Please pray for me.
Yes I read several times, the verses make it quite clear but someone ought to talk about these business models. When you are not paid, you can’t tithe, nor take care of your family as well as you would have or not at all. Tech companies, Banking instutitions. Mangagerial Careers are essentially going to the employee who can bid the less cost and can bring in revenue from a UHNW. These companies then champion those who have a connection to the UHNW but while paying themselves the checks for the job that they should be doing they pay lower and lower salaries to junior and middle management. This constant squeezing means that everyone is always hunting each other and social occasions are deemed to be ABC (Always be Closing) networking rounds.
In reading these comments I was reminded of some experiences faced by some friends of mine when dealing with the insecurity of the gig economy. Without naming any names of people or companies responsible here, what I saw was the following: brokers and middlemen have set up a variety of marketplaces where producers and freelance workers of various kinds bid against themselves to drive down the costs of performing various labor for companies that wish to increase their profits by not paying what producers are genuinely worth and what they would be paid as employees rather than more insecure freelancers. This sort of exploitation is not hard to see, and it is not hard to understand why companies would wish to pay a little for work that they would have to pay a lot for to have it done in house. Nevertheless, it is not this sort of matter that is at the core of the problem of Deuteronomy 24:14-15  that this author is talking about, although economic exploitation of any kind is always painful to those who are being exploited.
The real issue of theft in the contemporary economy involves the way that cash flows are manipulated to steal from others by those who have a great deal of money and maintain their role as ultra-high net worth individuals in large part by manipulating the timing of their cash flows to the detriment of others. These are not new problems. Farmers, for example, have always struggled in large part because their cash flow was dependent on intermittent and vulnerable harvests while their expenses were consistent. This has both put strain on and provided profit motives for local merchants and various other kinds of middlemen to extend credit to farmers for the necessities of life. Similarly, small businessmen like the cobbler who commented on my blog have long faced the issue of having up-front expenses, like shoe leather, while needing to chase the payment of bills from customers. In general, cash flow is improved by receiving money now and paying money later, so long as one does not have to pay interest on it, but paying later often means in practice that one has externalized the insecurity to others.
And it is that which is theft. To the extent that we work without receiving money for it, we have been put in a position of slavery by others. In order to pay for our expenses we may need to borrow and the interest we pay and the lack of interest we get from the delayed payments of others amounts to a theft on the time value of money on the money that is in arrears, whether that be the payment for shoes by a small business(wo)man or the wages in arrears from workers whose companies may pay them a month or more late and profit off of the delay accordingly. The question is one of vulnerability. Just as farmers are prone to being taken advantage of because of their lesser resources, the same is true for individual laborers as well as small businesses with wealthier clients. And it is unjust and indeed robbery to gain or maintain one’s wealth through shifting the insecurity of the timing of payments from oneself to those who are less well off and less able to weather the difficulties of managing one’s cash flow.
Indeed, the theft of time is something that employers and managers often complain about, without being aware that they are committing the same offense that they accuse others of. One can steal time a variety of ways, by seeking pay for time where one was not in fact working, or by not paying on time for the time that was worked and profiting off of the time value of money between the work that is done and the time when the payment is received. Matthew 19:29 tells us: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. This is a reminder that God Himself is sensitive to the time value of rewards, and that the reward for having paid a cost for being godly here and now is a great deal of profit in the world to come, a profit of a hundredfold in this case. And if God will pay us with interest because of the time value of money and rewards, then certainly we should be sensitive to how we pay others in this regard, lest the voices of those we are exploiting cry out in judgment against us.
 See, for example: