We live in a world of competing values: greed vs. sacrifice.
On the one hand, we are taught to look out for number one, to pursue the best for ourselves and our loved ones. We are taught by those in power that greed is good for everyone. We know the value of greed.
Still, many of us have learned the sublime value of sacrifice. We consistently make personal and immediate sacrifices for our long-term well-being and the benefit of others. Day by day, parents make decisions to sacrifice their preferences and desires for the sake of their children and their families. We put off buying a new outfit or a new car to make sure our budgets stay balanced. We choose to eat in rather than eat out to help the bottom line.
Over the past few years, many teachers, police officers, and other government workers have embraced the value of sacrifice for the greater good of their local communities and their states. In Ohio, for instance, state employees have given back $350 million in wage freezes, furlough days and healthcare costs. Another example of sacrifice comes from cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians in the Salem City School District of Ohio, who have not had a pay increase in eight years. These working class men and women are making sacrifices for the greater good.
It is a sad day when those who sacrifice so much to keep our communities safe and to instruct our children are then made targets. That is right, some extreme politicians are blaming hard working people for the economic hardships facing many of our states and communities. The attack on public sector workers in states like New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio is evidence of leaders who consistently want to ask for more and more from workers, while failing to ask for sacrifices from the elites. No, for many, greed trumps sacrifice every single time.
I am reminded of a teaching Jesus once shared with his disciples as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew: "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant" (Matthew 20:24-28).
Jesus says clearly: if you want to be great, leave greed behind. Embrace service. Embrace sacrifice. This is the way to move from greed to greatness.
Unfortunately, all too often, the elite feel entitled to favorable laws and favorable treatment, while they expect to be exempt from service and sacrifice for the common good. This is not leadership -- it is greed.
In states like Ohio, and in our nation as a whole, we need those with political and financial power and influence to stop "throwing their weight around" by attacking the rights of public sector workers. We need the powerful to move beyond greed into greatness through their own sacrifice and service to those who work hard and who are already sacrificing to make our communities, states and country better places.