Christian Minimalism

Wage Transparency

Many years ago, I was facing a potential promotion at my job. When I saw the salary offer, I had a hunch that it was lower than it should have been.

I sat down with a trusted co-worker, who had similar work experience and credentials as I did. I asked her what her salary was. My hunch was correct– she was making much more than I was currently, as well as more than the promotion salary offer I had been given.

Some companies and institutions have a pay scale, which helps to standardize salaries. But many workplaces do not, including the one I was employed by at that time.

I went back in to negotiate. But rather than being open to a salary conversation, Human Resources chastised me.

“You’re not supposed to talk to other employees about your salaries,” HR told me.

I was shocked. “Is there a policy?” I asked. “I didn’t sign anything saying I couldn’t, and honestly, not having those conversations benefits the employer rather than the employees.” The HR staff person was flabbergasted, and was not able to respond.

Having the Money Conversation

Being more open about what we are being paid, also known as wage or pay transparency, is becoming more and more accepted.

Talking about one’s pay is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, but many workplaces still try to stifle conversations around pay using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and other signed documents. This can result in losing one’s job if one tries to have a salary conversation with fellow employees after signing such documents.

Though there has been some movement on protecting employees’ NLRA rights (check out this historic decision in 2023 regarding severance agreements and the NLRA), companies and institutions continue to frown upon and/or find ways to penalize employees who strive for wage/pay transparency.

Why are conversations around wages and pay important?

  1. Talking about salaries and pay gets us more comfortable talking about money in general, which can help us to be more aware of how money functions in our own lives and in our country/world.
  2. When we are aware of salaries and pay, we are better able to fight against the very real gender pay gap and racial pay gap. It is appalling that pay gaps still exist today based on gender identity and racial background.
  3. Having salary and pay conversations means that companies and institutions will be more likely to share salary ranges when hiring employees, and put salary standardization in place (ex: a pay scale).
  4. Talking about money destigmatizes a topic that is often considered “inappropriate,” and helps to destigmatize other conversation topics considered taboo (such as religion, grief, etc.).

What does wage transparency have to do with Christian minimalism?

I’m so glad you asked!

1) We are unable to buy and consume intentionally if we aren’t able to think and talk about money. We cannot make changes in how we decide to use monetary resources if we run away every time money comes up. Talking about salaries and how we earn and spend money helps to “break the ice” and open our eyes to our buying and consumption habits.

And once we are aware of how we buy, spend, and consume, we can (with God’s help) strive to simplify and buy, spend, and consume less.

2) God cares about fair wages. There are many instances in the Bible in which God warns against oppressing people by not paying them fairly. Here is just one example:

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure during the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

James 5:1-6

It’s clear that not paying people fairly (and keeping that money for oneself) is not how God wants us to function. Yet, this is how consumer culture functions regularly. Consumer culture values profit over people, but God values people over profit.

We are called by God to help companies and institutions become more wage transparent, in order to make sure everyone is able to eat and live, as God intended.

How is God calling YOU to talk more about money/fair wages, as well as buy and consume more simply and intentionally?

Did you like this post? Check out the Christian Minimalism book!


Becca Ehrlich, AKA The Christian Minimalist, is striving to be a Christian minimalist in a consumer society. She currently lives in Upstate New York with her husband Will and their son Theo. You can read more about her story and how her blog came to exist by clicking the website link above.

1 Comment

  1. Icey

    March 4, 2024 - 5:18 pm

    God is calling me to the reality that being a woman and also a woman of color is not valued. I am a woman of a certain age, white collar employment, college educated. I have been on jobs with YEARS of experience and rave yearly reviews. I have NEVER made a penny more than my white colleagues; male or female; less experienced included. It’s my reality and God has allowed me to remember this without fail.

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