Serving the Big Picture
Americans’ attitudes about work may be changing
Startling statistic: The Department of Labor recorded 4 million job resignations in April alone. We already know of jobs going vacant. You may even have experienced a two-hour wait time at a short-staffed restaurant. But that might be just the beginning of “the Great Resignation,” a social trend that Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M, predicts. Judging by rumbles on TikTok and Reddit, the Great Resignation might be a real “movement.” As many as 1 in 4 employees report they plan to use up vacation days this summer and resign from their present jobs in the fall.
Since the shutdown, they’ve had time to consider the future. Would they prefer flexibility to a 9-to-5 office schedule? Are their current jobs what they really want to be doing in 10 years? Have they come to appreciate their enforced leisure? Would they rather have more time for family, social gatherings, or the great outdoors? When jobs begin to churn again in the fall, wouldn’t they rather jump ship and look for something better?
Maybe, says Jack Kelly at Forbes, but not so fast. “In surveys, respondents can be brave and talk tough,” but he predicts most employees will stay put. And in September, when federal unemployment benefits dry up, analysts predict a Great Return. It’s no sin to pine for work satisfaction, but don’t quit your day job to seek it.
In my own work history, flexibility was the thing I valued most. The thing I hated worst was driving to the same place at the same time and doing the same thing every Monday through Friday. As a child, I dragged my feet and complained about household chores. After high-school graduation, my mother practically had to push me out the door to get a summer job so I could go to college. Not much of a work ethic, in other words. My parents, for all their virtues, made no particular effort to instill a work ethic in me, perhaps because they took it as a given for any responsible adult.
In these days of unemployment checks, disability insurance, and government stimulus money, work is more of a lifestyle choice. You could devote yourself to a career at the expense of family. You could jump from job to job searching for the perfect fit. You might even be able to get by with no job at all.
Both workism and the Great Resignation may signal a shift in how the middle class views work. Whether knocking ourselves out for a career or dreaming of early retirement, the goal is self-serving, or whatever we see as good for us. But the Bible teaches that work is itself good for us. Working “as to the Lord” means not only for Him, but with Him: a priceless privilege.
And what’s more, in His economy, all legitimate work reflects the Lord Who Works, from menial to prestigious and everything in between.
In Hail, Caesar!, a comedy about 1950s Hollywood, Marxist screenwriters kidnap Capitol Pictures’ top box office draw, Baird Whitlock. While waiting for the ransom to be delivered, Whitlock enjoys the afternoon getting schooled by the Communists, and upon returning to the studio he blithely explains to production manager Eddie Mannix that the industry is a fraud. He’s met some smart guys who have “actually figured out the laws that dictate everything. It’s all in a book called Kapital. With a K.” Capitol with a C is really just a fat-cat operation, a factory serving up lollipops for the—that’s where Eddie literally slaps the mixed metaphors out of him. “This studio’s been good to you, and to everybody who works here,” and furthermore, that cheesy Bible epic starring Whitlock “has worth. And you have worth if you serve the picture. And you’re never gonna forget that again.”
All of us serve the Big Picture, including the Lord Himself, who made it. May we never forget it.
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