I do not usually reflect on and write about current events per se, but this headline regarding an alarming trend that has been taking place for the past couple of years made me take notice.
About two weeks ago, television host Mike Rowe was a guest on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”, as reported on Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/media/mike-rowe-sounds-alarm-declining-work-ethic-reflection-hideous). Rowe raised the issue of a “lax work ethic in the labor force and a growing number of able-bodied men not seeking a job.” He that said 7 million men between 25-40 are “not only not working but aren’t even looking for a job. That’s never happened in peacetime – ever.”
Rowe mentioned that economist Nick Eberstadt wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that the country is facing an “unprecedented peacetime labor shortage, with employers practically begging for workers, while vast numbers of grown men and women sit on the sidelines of the economy.” (See https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-americans-work-after-pandemic-retire-males-age-payments-covid-vaccines-pandemic-income-stimulus-consumer-11662138942.) This observation grieves me deeply.
Undoubtedly, among these seven million Americans, there must be a large number of Christian men and women who have opted out of the workforce. I want to plead with and challenge my brothers and sisters in Christ with this word of encouragement: you have unprecedented opportunities right now to add light to the darkness and salt to a decaying world by bringing God’s presence with you to work.
Urging for the unemployed
I know these have been unprecedented and difficult times. If you are currently not employed and have stopped looking, I have to ask, “Why?” What are you doing? “What are you waiting for?”
It could be that you are going to school full-time. That is clearly a full-time job in itself. If you are taking care of young children or aging parents, that can also be a vocation for a season. Also, if you are renovating your home or starting a business, those are obviously worthy pursuits as well.
However, if you are not working or looking for work because you haven’t figured out what you want to do when you grow up and are depending on others to provide for you, I strongly urge you to take a serious look at the time that you are wasting. This is not the abundant life that God has planned.
Please do not hesitate any longer. There are jobs available everywhere. Find something that you are mildly interested in doing where you can trade your time for money and that is useful to others, i.e., brings peace to this world. Humans were created, equipped, and called to work. (See Gen. 1:26-28.) God is a worker. We were created in His image. God designed us to stay busy. Moreover, God invites us to be His coworkers to continue the creation project. It is what makes society flourish. You and I have been given a garden of Eden somewhere that we need to tend. No one else can do it for you.
Working is one way to demonstrate the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). We show our love for God by using the unique talents, passions, and experiences that He gave us. Work is also a means for us to love our neighbor by meeting their physical, emotional, mental, social, or spiritual needs.
William Placher, in his book, Callings asks us to consider the following: “If the God who made us has figured out something we are supposed to do, however—something that fits how we were made, so that doing it will enable us to glorify God, serve others, and be most richly ourselves—then life stops seeming so empty; my story has meaning as part of a larger story ultimately shaped by God.”
Warnings for those who refuse to work
If you have lost your motivation to reenter the workforce after an extended absence, consider this.
In 2 Thess. 3:6-12, the Apostle Paul instructs the church in Thessalonica to keep away from those who are idle by choice. He states that if a man does not want to work, he should just go hungry.
R. Paul Stevens, in Work Matters states, “The sluggard knows nothing of the creation mandate, that work is good, that work is part of our God-imaging dignity … In short, the idler has no theology of work. Realizing neither the intrinsic value nor the extrinsic value of work, the sluggard refuses to see work as a gift, a calling, and a blessing.” Christians would do well to consider and accept these ideas.
Wisdom for those who are waiting to change jobs
The current worker shortage that we see in this country may be a blessing in disguise for some. Let me address those who have been suffering in a bad work situation, and are waiting on God’s timing.
It appears that with the massive shortage of workers, now might be the perfect time to take that step of faith and go after another job. It could be in the same field or you could make the transition into an entry level or mid-level job into a field that you have no experience in but you would like to. If you feel a “holy dissatisfaction” with where you spend the majority of your time, perhaps now might be your optimum time to follow your passion since your employment prospects look fairly promising.
Here is my final word of encouragement if you are stuck taking an unintentionally long break from employment or are stuck in a job that you no longer find fulfilling. If you don’t do something radical right now, you just may miss out on one of God’s greatest blessings that He has planned for your life.
Can you imagine waking up excited to get dressed and head to your job because you feel it in your heart that God provided it just for you. You know that He has a plan and a purpose for you, that He has prepared you for this position, and that He will give you the strength and wisdom you need to get through every trial and overcome every temptation. You sense His presence at work every day. You see Him use you to meet the full spectrum of basic human needs all around you. You realize that God is actually loving people through the work that you do. And, when you go home at the end of the day, you know that you made a difference and that what you did contributed to the Kingdom of God.
This is not a dream. This has truly been my experience for many years. It can be a reality for you, too.
If what I said applies to you, then I strongly encourage you to get moving. I can guarantee that your Christian faith will grow exponentially as you walk with God on this journey to fulfill your calling. If what you read applies to someone you love, I pray that you will have an opportunity to share with them some of these life-changing truths that should help to set them free from the trap they are in.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of the book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is passionate about helping people with ordinary jobs experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served for 20 years on active duty and has worked for the past 14 years as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written nearly 200 articles on faith and work topics. One hundred of these articles have been published on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, The Gospel Coalition, and Christian Grandfather Magazine. (See list of published articles on Linktree.)