Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's Fair?

The lectionary last Sunday was the parable about the field laborers who were paid the same whether they worked all day or just the last hour.

All the talk about how "It's not fair! I scrimped to pay my mortgage and he lived large, but now the government is bailing him out!" reminds me of that parable.

If we focus a little more narrowly, more on ourselves and less on our neighbors, it looks like this:

I took on a mortgage. I pay it. I'm getting exactly what I signed up for. That's fair.

If we compare ourselves to others, that will never look fair. And it also doesn't help solve anything.

That ways lies unhappiness. We're in a crisis. I look forward to listening to the various measures our elected leaders and their appointed advisers suggest we take to handle it. I hope that we get out of the mess soon, and trust that we'll manage it without allowing the chaos to spread into the credit sector and cause many of the rest of us - who took on mortgages we could afford and paid them on time - to lose our own jobs, homes.

Matthew 20:14
Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?


RobMonroe said...

We used to be able to afford our mortgage, then the market blossomed above and beyond expectations in DC. Our home value went up by more than $100k and our mortgage went up by more than $500 each month to deal with taxes and insurance. We tried to be realistic, but our bank did us wrong.

And we have it better than most people.

Sarahlynn said...

Well, I agree with you there. That really sucks. AND it's not fair. I can't believe the increase in taxes and insurance!

stljoie said...

I am in a situation where I bought my house in 1967. Now the 2 and 4 family buildings around me are being rehabbed into single family homes with granite/viking kitchens and price tags ranging from 367,000 to a 'reduced' 469.999. and they are all tax abated while my taxes have gone up to 3,ooo. I am 65 but cannot take advantage of tax breaks for older citizens because my husband is younger. These developers have bought these buildings very cheaply. While my home is a residence I have a few neighbors who continue to live in really beautiful 2 families and rent the other unit. They are the smart ones.

Sarahlynn said...

StLJoie, that's awful.

I think my post was overly broad. It's true: very unfair things are happening right now, especially in taxes and real estate.

I meant something more narrow, in response to those who are complaining that we shouldn't bail out lenders of sub-prime mortgages because it isn't fair to them; they paid their own mortgage and nobody bailed them out.

There might be other good reasons not to bail out the lenders. And there are certainly other ways in which the current system is unfair.

I'm just frustrated by the mindset of not wanting to help someone else if the action doesn't also help ourselves somehow.

Here in my subdivision, the minimum lot size is 1/3 acre, to prohibit someone subdividing their lot and really changing the look of the place. One family's lot is larger than many of the others, nearly an acre. The owner wants to divide his lot into two to sell both more easily, keeping within the subdivision guidelines and maintaining the look of the community.

Two residents who voted no, did so simply because they weren't getting anything out of it. I don't understand that.

Lynnie said...

That's an interesting lecture! Was the purpose of the lecture to give people a chance to think about today's economic crisis in biblical terms, or was it just a coincidence?

I'm not particularly religious myself, but I appreciate the example of the Compassionate Christian who is looking for ways to help others, no matter what the circumstances were leading to that person needing help.

Sarahlynn said...

Bummer! Firefox crashed and I lost my response. Trying again . . .

I didn't mean to lecture, but I guess I did. Sorry about that!

I was really just responding to some people I've heard on various call in shows on the radio this week.

I've heard several people responding to the proposed economic bail-out by saying, basically, But why should I help them when no one's helping me? What do I get out of it?

I just think that's a particularly ugly way to look at the world.

There are certainly legitimate reasons to oppose the bail-out, of course.

And I suppose it was a coincidence. The lectionary - set years in advance, I suppose - came up with that story from Matthew for last Sunday, then I heard people complaining about but where's mine?! and it made me think of the story.

If you got yours, don't worry too much about somebody else getting "extra."