This sermon was written and delivered by Rev. Sonya Brown
I love bargains and good deals. I’d rather say, I got this shirt for five dollars instead of fifteen dollars. I had a math professor who also did accounting for a large retail company. She explained the markup of products looked to cover production, distribution, marketing, maintaining and running the multiple retail stores, and profit. The retail price will cover the cost of the product explained. Big box stores will still make money from sale and clearance items based on the markup of the product. It made sense why big box stores could have Black Friday or other deals.
Recently there was a granny square crochet sweater that Target was selling for $35. It seems like a good deal. Local artisans explained how there is no industrial machine that can replicate or reproduce a crochet pattern. There are industrial machines that can replicate knitting patterns but not a crochet granny square pattern. The only way to make a crochet sweater for $35 will be paying a person less than or about a dollar an hour for them to create it by hand and for Target to still make a profit. The artisans said it would take roughly three days working 8 hour work days to complete the sweater by hand.
In America, we have minimum wages, but this does not apply to items that are outsourced to other areas of the world. So was this garment ethically made?
Handmade items are different. People don’t realize the amount of work and materials it takes to create something handmade. We are not accustomed to paying for handmade items. When big box stores put something on clearance and still turn a profit, that’s great. But I don’t like the feeling of wearing something I know was made by a person who wasn’t paid a living wage.
I’ve heard stories of people traveling to places like Mexico and will bargain with the person to get items as cheaply as possible. These stories have come from people going there for vacation and even for ministry trips.
These two instances are examples of an abuse or injury that has been caused. Sure, you could justify capitalism and consumption. Maybe we don’t fully realize the effects we have on people’s livelihood. We didn’t make the decisions for the large retail company. What harm does fast fashion have on people, communities, and the environments we don’t have firsthand, day to day contact with?
Whether buying a handmade item for way too cheap at Target or on vacation, a lot of us don’t give it a second thought. We certainly don’t feel guilty. I guess local seller shouldn’t have caved for the lower price as well. That’s not our problem.
We live in a world of economic injustice. It’s hard for us to know how to make that right. I’ve heard of other people who, rather than haggling with that seller on vacation, will pay the amount asked or more because they know the amount of work and limited resources many of the local sellers face. They ensure the local seller is paid a decent amount plus more for their work.
We might call this act a reparation. The person in this example did not take advantage of the seller. They’re making amends on behalf of another person’s harmful act – probably someone they don’t even know.
God cares about economic justice… So what does it look like for us to care as well? We are going to explore the concrete ways God leads us to act out love for our neighbor.