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The news doesn’t seem to get any better lately: recent numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women ministers make, on average, 76 cents for every dollar male ministers make for comparable work. That’s even worse than the 83 cents to the dollar in the general work force. Neither is right or fair.

bluebirdsNor are the pitiful wages paid to the folks who make the world go round by ringing up our groceries, changing our oil, stocking shelves at the store, and any number of other jobs that are necessary but severely underpaid, while top executives roll in more dough than anybody could possibly need. I have two sons in the labor force. Both work full time, and neither makes enough to be self-sufficient. My youngest works at a tire store/repair shop, where a sign on the wall says “Labor $95 per hour.” The young man actually doing the labor gets $9 of that.

The weather is also bad news for lots of folks in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast who are getting hammered by winter storm Jonas, with up to two feet of snow expected. Where I live, we’ve gotten mostly sleet and freezing rain: all of the inconvenience and none of the fun. sparrowsWe’re fortunate that our power hasn’t gone off (as of this writing). The best part of being iced in, so far, has been watching the birds in our little backyard: a scattering of bird seed and dried mealworms, along with a couple of cakes of suet, earns our place four stars in the world of avian dining.

Fluffed-out bluebirds are gulping down the mealworms. They’re joined by ground-feeding juncos and rufus sided towhees, house finches, house wrens, mockingbirds, and sparrows. Bright red cardinals, goldfinches, and yellow pine warblers add splashes of color. Downy woodpeckers and red bellied woodpeckers hang around the suet cakes, and I even saw a brown thrasher — who rarely leaves the hedge — enjoying the same treat. It’s a wonder that smaller birds like the Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens, and spunky titmice don’t freeze to death, but they fluff their feathers and keep right on going.

warblerI suppose that’s the same philosophy that keeps underpaid folks on the job. Their bellies are hungry, the work needs doing, and even poor pay seems better than no pay, so they fluff their feathers, make the best of things, and keep on working.

I admire them for it, while recognizing that our lawmakers’ failure to institute a livable minimum wage remains an ugly indictment against our society and contributes to the non-sustainable and widening gap between the wealthy folk who defy the snow by swimming in their heated rooftop pools, and the poor folk who bundle up to go out and work for crumbs.

That’s for the birds.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths and several Bible study books for Nurturing Faith.