It’s being called the “Great Resignation” – a mass, COVID-era inspired exodus of workers quitting one job for another or just dropping out of the workforce altogether.
According to the latest reports, 4.4 million Americans left their respective jobs in September. Explanations for the moves span the spectrum from the philosophical to the pragmatic and the practical.
For some, the onset of the global pandemic forced an emotional reckoning and time to reflect on passion and purpose. For others, the trend from in-person work to remote employment was too good to pass up. Weary of long commutes and all the challenges associated with it – from the costs of transportation, dry cleaning and meals – proved to be a breaking point.
The dynamic and ever-evolving nature of employment is the norm, of course. Work has looked very different across history, punctuated by a major transformation of the economy with the onset of the industrial revolution. Once upon a time, most people worked on the family farm. Suggesting the average worker had to put on a suit and leave home in late 1700’s America for eight or ten hours of work in a high-rise office building would have been the equivalent of announcing today you were headed for a day on the International Space Station or even Mars.
Change is the norm – but not all change is good or healthy.
The pandemic-inspired employment revolution runs the risk of becoming increasingly self-centered and self-focused. Instead of asking what is good for the company or its customers, employees are focusing on what is good for themselves.
Cynics and critics will suggest this pivot is long overdue, that employees have been taken advantage of for too long. A reset is necessary, they argue – and thus, the “Great Resignation” provides the greatest hope for this rightsizing of the employer/employee relationship.
Only a fool would deny the existence of hostile and toxic work environments. Fallen humanity has consequences, including bad bosses and work that seems to steal one’s soul of dignity and respect.
But the exceptions notwithstanding, Christians are called to play by different rules of engagement, because work is not merely utilitarian – it’s a form of worship.
When it comes to employment, our goal as believers is to take the gifts and talents we’re given by God and find a way to use them for the greater good. Yes, the worker is deserving of his wages (Luke 10:7), but we’re not just passing time to earn a paycheck. Our work matters. Whether white collar or blue, work has eternal consequences.
It’s an old bromide that nobody said upon their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office” – but if that’s true for you, maybe it’s time you reevaluate your office.
At the risk of sounding pollyannish, I love my “office” here at Focus on the Family. I enjoy it because I love the people we’re helping and the coworkers I get to do the ministry with. We start early, trying to get a jump on the day, especially being in the Mountain time zone and realizing our East Coast colleagues and constituents are two hours ahead. There are plenty of instances when I’m disappointed to see the day end. We almost always run out of time before we run out of projects and tasks to do.
The untold story of Focus on the Family at the end of 2021 is that we’re helping so many people because our founder, Dr. James Dobson, and our current president, Jim Daly, devoted decades of their respective lives to the ministry, and at great personal sacrifice.
Each night, and especially on weekends, Dr. Dobson would bring home suitcases full of papers and reports. He’d review articles, memos and letters while walking on the treadmill. When his boys were young, Jim Daly would leave the office at 5 P.M. for dinner and time with his wife and family – and then often return after they were in bed, to make international calls or get a jump start on the next day.
Workaholism? No. Both men and their teams did it because they didn’t see ministry as a job – but as a calling. There were marriages and families in trouble, children adrift – and innocent babies at risk. God entrusted them with their roles and responsibilities. They found time to rest, but helping others was more important than helping themselves.
Secular work is still ministry for Christians. Your work is your witness. The same principles apply to for-profit businesses. In fact, if you’re a Christian working with agnostics or atheists, the Lord can and will use you in significant ways.
But when you reduce employment to wages and the convenience and preference of working conditions, you run the risk of missing the greater purpose of the work itself. There may be good and worthy reasons for remote work and revisiting personal benefits – but we need to examine our hearts and motives when pressing for the revolution.
It was the apostle Paul who wrote to early believers in Corinth, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
As Christians in this evolving economy, we must resist the urge to join in the chorus of demanding rights without first embracing our responsibilities and make sure that our work connects with God’s ways, bringing honor and glory to Him.
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