Factories and the Bible- Part three
What does the Bible say about factories?
Nothing. Factories didn’t exist in Biblical days. And apart from exotic goods, international trade as we know it was non-existent. What, then does the Bible have to say about the way workers in factories should be treated?
Lovingly created in the image of God.
A basic Biblical principle is ‘love’. Love of God. Love of neighbour, all in response to God’s great love for us. It is out of this love for the whole world that God sent Jesus amongst us. (John 3:16,17; Mark 12:28-31, 1 John 4:7-21))
Another principle is that we are all created in the image of God, male and female we are created, in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26,27)
Thus it is imperative that every person on this planet, male or female, be regarded as created in God’s image and loved by God. I am always struck by St Augustine’s aphorism ‘God loves each of us as if there were only one of us’ The least we can do in response is to love each person as God loves him or her.
Whether in the factory of modern times or the worker’s cottage of earlier days these principles apply and are reflected in the Bible.
For example, Deuteronomy 24:14,15
14 You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. 15 You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.
5 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 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 for the last days. 4 Listen! The wages of the labourers 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. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
1 Timothy 5:17,18
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching; 18 for the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain’, and, ‘The labourer deserves to be paid.’
(All NRSV translation)
Finally, what about Quarry Bank Mill at Styall, Cheshire, England today?
It is a much visited National Trust property which displays the horrors of its origins and includes a display on the cotton industry in general. Imagine our pleasure when in 2014 Noelene and I saw the board pictured above, sponsored by Marks & Spencer as part of the story of cotton.