Friday, November 07, 2008

Praying for the Unemployed, Pondering the Dignity of Work

On a day when the government announced troubling increases in the numbers of unemployed, statistics about joblessness and the recession were brought more sharply into view for me.

My daughter called from Florida to say that the Curves at which she works on a part-time basis and where she works out, is closing down. (She has a full-time job. So, no worries there, although her hours have been cut back.) The owner of the franchise, a woman who holds two other jobs, simply can't afford to keep the place up and running.

I learned today that a Christian publishing house is closing down all of its retail outlets. There is a general trend away from the overhead associated with physical stores, toward online sales. So, this decision may have been in the pipeline anyway. But it was probably also hastened by the economy. The decision comes as an enormous blow to an acquaintance of mine with more than thirty years with the company.

Over the course of the week, I've spoken with several people who have lost their jobs because of the shrinking economy.

It isn't just the loss of income that's so horrible when one loses a job, although that's worrisome enough. It's also the loss of self-worth.

There's a downside to tying up one's sense of worthiness to a job, of course. As I said here, we're human beings, not human doings.* In God's eyes, we're accounted worthy not because of what we do or own, but simply because we are children of God.

On the other hand, we weren't made for idleness, contrary to the bad rap that work sometimes gets. Some Christians even have the mistaken impression that work is a punishment for sin. Not so. Even before the fall into sin recorded in Genesis, God gave the first man work to do. Work isn't a punishment. It's part of our purpose for living. When it's taken away from us, it chips away at our dignity.

Tonight, I'm praying for all who are without work.

I'm praying too, that the economy not only of the United States, but that of the world, will improve, bringing new opportunities for people.

I'm also praying that once things do improve, we won't forget our vulnerability or our need for God in good times and bad. (See here.)

*The phrase isn't original with me. But I don't remember where I first read it.

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