If you’ve had the opportunity to get out more and even travel a little, you’ve probably noticed one consistent sign everywhere you go – Help Wanted.
Everyone is talking about it, and you’ve probably experienced the fallout from it. Slower service, limited options, even restaurants who are still offering take-out only because they cannot find employees to offer their normal full-service experience.
Why? Many speculate that enhanced unemployment benefits and a third round of stimulus checks has allowed – some say, encouraged – workers to opt out of working. Particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry, in childcare, or in any business where wages are historically low and exposure to people is high, employers are struggling to attract employees. Their response is that the government has made it too convenient for people to collect a check without doing any work, according to Forbes.
Robert Stevenson, CEO of Eastman Machine Company, a producer of machines that cut specialty fabrics for industry shared his own experience. “I had one guy quit who said I can make more on unemployment. I’ll take the summer off. I told him I can’t guarantee you’ll have your job back. He said, I’ll take my chances.”
What does the Bible say about this? What should we, as Christians, choose if our options are being paid to be home and relax or getting up, getting out, and getting working?
Well, there’s a reason why our Founding Fathers and early generations of Americans believed that hard work would bring the American Dream. These values came from the Bible, from multiple passages throughout the Old and New Testament validating the honor of hard work and the responsibility of every person to earn his or her own way.
And has harsh words for those who choose to sit it out versus making their own way: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
This last passage extols us to press on, even when we don’t want to, even when our needs can be provided by others. The danger of doing otherwise is that we will quickly get used to doing nothing, and it will become not just what we do, but who we are.
The Bible also tells us, many times over, to lend aid to the poor. We have a responsibility to help those less fortunate. But there is a stipulation: We are not to just give. We are to give with the expectation that the receiver will build on our offering, take matters into his own hands, and make his own way. Leviticus 23:22 says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” Notice that his words are very clear that the poor and the alien are then expected to reap their own harvests. The gift is simply to help them get started, not to provide for them indefinitely while they rest and wait for more.
Paul used himself as an example to illustrate this important concept. “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” () – quite a bold statement that makes the foundations of work ethic very clear. He had a right to speak harshly on the matter, using his own life, and that of his friends, as an example. “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (verses 7-8).
Small business owners of today, those who have toiled to build a business from the ground up, rely on very thin profit margins and a tight budget to operate, making it difficult to increase wages or extend additional benefits like bonuses. They are stretching these boundaries in an attempt to hire, but are still being turned down in favor of unemployment. As a result, tens of thousands of small businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic, according to Forbes.
As able-bodied Christians, we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to choose work over government handouts. If we can work, we should. Otherwise, we contribute to a mentality that “others will carry the load,” and before you know it, we’ll all be broken.