Are you noticing what I am? Have you had trouble trying to get a contractor, HVAC technician, plumber or landscaper in the last few months to call you back or even show up when they say they will? One business owner who generously answered my wife’s phone inquiry recently said, “I can’t get anyone to work!” This work crisis phenomenon is unprecedented in recent years or at least in my short 47 year lifespan
After a deliberate effort to take note of how many businesses are hiring workers in my area, I learned that there are numerous job opportunities in practically every community in Southeastern PA. In my hometown alone, within a 2-mile radius, I found 60 places hiring. What is going on? Why are people choosing not to work? I submit there is an insidious problem with work ethic in our American society or, at the very least, sheer laziness.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog is not directed to those who are elderly, retired or disabled, but for those who are able-bodied individuals.
As we unpack this apparent lack of workers phenomena, let us begin with the foundation of all our understanding and read again what God has to say about work. In His great love letter to us, Sacred Scripture, the divinely inspired word reveals much on the origins of labor and our efforts to pursue work.
After the fall of man to the serpent in the Garden, the Lord God said to Adam:
…Cursed be the ground because of you!
In toil shall you eat its yield
all the days of your life…
By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken…
In the Book of Psalms, we read:
“What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be happy and prosper.” (128:2)“May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Prosper the work of our hands! (90:17)
In the Book of Proverbs we read:
“Entrust your works to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” (16:3)
“The sluggard’s propensity slays him for his hands refuse to work.” (21:25)
“In all labor there is profit, but mere talk tends only to penury (poverty).” (14:23)
St. Paul taught to the Church in Thessalonica:
For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10
St. Paul further instructs St. Timothy when he says:
So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus….Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To satisfy the one who recruited him, a soldier does not become entangled in the business affairs of life. Similarly, an athlete cannot receive the winner’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer ought to have the first share of the crop. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:1-7
Keep in mind, St. Paul worked as a tent maker so as to support his ministry (Acts 18:1-3 & 20:33-35). And we know St. Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55) whom taught our Lord, Himself, the very trade of carpentry.
So clearly God desires His people to work, including His only begotten Son. So what is the deal with so many refusing to work? Based on the numbers of Christians in the United States (estimated 205 million per Google), I presume there are many within the current absentee workforces who espouse Christian moral principles, values and virtues. Are these folks not reading their Bible? That is arguably likely so, but in truth, I believe it is a much deeper problem than just ignorance of scripture, which St. Jerome said is compatible with ignorance of Christ.
While the word of God should be informing the faithful’s conscience on such matters, I believe the current workforce (the last 3-4 generations in fact) have learned something that most of their ancestors did not learn or would have even considered accepting as true for themselves. It is entitlement.
I believe many have come to accept that they are “entitled” to certain things as American citizens. In our American culture, those born after 1973 believe they are entitled to an abortion should they have an unwanted pregnancy. Those born in the current digital age of the Internet and cell phones have come to believe that they are entitled to communicate their intentions without any human face-to-face interaction. This current workforce demographic knows, that if they choose not to work, they are entitled to government subsidy and support. Surprisingly, in fact, with the global pandemic, this American workforce has learned that they will get paid more if they don’t work!
Two years ago I drove a truck one day a week for $16/hr. and made heavy deliveries for a dear friend’s wholesale supply company so I could support my growing young family and sustain my efforts while in ministry. It was an early rise of 5AM and hard working kind of day till 3:30-4 pm. It was not the kind of day I was educated for (with a BA and a Masters degree), but something that I needed to do to provide for my family. Even now, I still take on additional work to support my family when and as often as necessary.
In today’s world, people can work at Burger King for nearly $20/hr. with a retention signing bonus of anywhere from $500-1500 if they like, yet, no one wants to take such a job. Contrast this reality with my first job out of college in 1997, which paid me $11/hour. Further compare that with today’s teenage baby sitters who are making and expecting much more like $15 per hour.
I know times have changed and things can somewhat be explained away due to inflation and the cost of living, etc. However, I recently spoke with a millennial that told me her peers don’t want to work for minimum wage ($7.25). I don’t know if I can blame them. Currently eight states have enacted phase-ins of a $15.00 minimum wage with a ninth considering such.
I know young people today can make thousands upon thousands of dollars by working from home doing e-commerce. I can see the concern with the young workforce not being able to make similar money outside their home. I believe people should get paid a just wage for their work and be able to provide for their families.
In truth, though, the services that we all depend on, and the services that built this country to be the greatest nation in the world, requires a return to a work ethic that leads the current workforce away from the government’s payroll and back into our communities. It requires a return to work for the sake of receiving the many graces that God pours forth into His people should they humbly submit to tilling the soil and putting forth effort to provide a service each and every day.
While I applaud the ingenuity of the young minds of today, there is no applause for those who are able to put forth an honest day’s work if they so can and, yet, still fail to do so. The entitlement that they have learned has encouraged them to stay at home, and collect a pandemic crisis induced and inflated unemployment paycheck or a seemingly endless stimulus package rescue fund when they have the physical ability to work. Again, I echo, St, Paul’s words, let him who will not work, not eat.
May God encourage each of us to do our part to serve Him and one another in this world. May we each grow to see the benefit of a day’s work even if the pay is not what it should be, Amen.