Describe the merits and demerits of fixed wages.
When wages are described in the Bible, they are determined by negotiation. An employer declares what he is willing to pay and an prospective employee replies whether he will accept the job for that pay. For example, Jacob negotiated a shepherding job in exchange for the right to marry the owner's daughter (Genesis 29:15-31). He did so well for Laban that when that contract expired, Laban asked him to name his wages to continue (Genesis 30:27- 34). Unfortunately Laban was not a man of his word. "Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me" (Genesis 31:7 ).
Another example is found in the parable of the vineyard, where the owner negotiates wages with various groups (Matthew 20:1-16). The story is interesting because the owner chose to pay each group the same wage even though the hours they worked differed greatly. He claimed the right because each group accepted his offer. They were willing to work for the amount he was willing to offer.
It was considered to take advantage of another and use their services for nothing. "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness And his chambers by injustice, Who uses his neighbor's service without wages And gives him nothing for his work" (Jeremiah 22:13). As Jesus said, "the laborer is worthy of his wages" (Luke 10:7).
Rules were given that whatever was settled for wages had to be paid promptly. "You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning" (Leviticus 19:13). "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you" (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Some were in trouble with God because of this very thing. "Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" (James 5:4).
The concept of government fixing the wages of workers was not in use during biblical times.