Talented but unemployed? God may be calling you to grubby, unglamorous work

By  Jonathan Witt

“When People Give Up Looking for Work, What Do They Do?” This Wall Street Journal story looks at the “millions of working-age men” sidelined by the economic slump, and warns that “the longer they’re out of work, the more their skills deteriorate and the harder it is to land the next job.”

“Those who can’t find work often turn to safety net programs, such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and disability — programs that have ballooned since the recession began,” the article continues. “Once people start receiving disability benefits, they rarely leave the program.”

The take-home: take any ethical job. Consider self-employing yourself, or offering to do work others find unpleasant. Some potential employers in your preferred career may look down on you for having done grubby work, but others will admire your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty while you’re waiting for a job in your chosen field.

The Bible condemns willful idleness and enjoins us to labor so that we can have the means to help those truly in need. If after pursuing any ethical job available, you’re still underemployed, cut your living expenses to the bone, minimize your use of the government dole, and use your idle week days to volunteer long hours doing something beneficial for society, including time on your knees in intercessory prayer.

The Christian community talks so much about pursuing vocational passion and calling that we often neglect a gritty reality that sometimes God uses circumstances to call us into work that doesn’t use all of our talents, but instead exercises our fortitude, selflessness, and humility.

I remember when I was 22. I was graduating from college with honors and with a paid summer internship under my belt, but I couldn’t find work in my chosen field right away. Instead of waiting around, I cobbled together three part-time jobs–night watchman, pizza delivery man, and painting a house. My dad had drilled into me the importance of hard work, whether glamorous or not–beginning with my summers as a teenager scraping up acres of tile in schools all across the Texas Panhandle for Witt Flooring. None of those jobs paid well. None of them used my higher ed skills. All of them were “good jobs” because they served others in beneficial ways.

So go find a “good job,” any good job. If part of your week days are still empty, use resources on the internet or at the town library to begin developing a self-employment skill (though steer clear of the “get rich quick” schemes that scammers love to peddle). In sum, avoid an idle lifestyle. If you don’t think this is a biblical mandate, re-read the book of Proverbs or the apostle Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians.

If necessary, “go West, young man (or woman)” to one of the business-friendly states where so many of the new jobs are being created nowadays. The move doesn’t have to be permanent.

The Creator made us in his image to be creative, and any kind of creative labor–even creating clean bathrooms out of dirty ones–is honorable work in the eyes of God. And God’s eyes see clearer and further than anyone’s.

From Acton PowerBlog. Image: “Pulling Log With Horseteam,” William Lommen.  Courtesy of the Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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About Acton Institute

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is named after the great English historian, Lord John Acton (1834-1902). Inspired by his work on the relation between liberty and morality, the Acton Institute seeks to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing. To that end, the Institute engages in research, publishing, documentary film production, engagement with the media, and organizes seminars aimed at educating religious leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, university professors, and academic researchers. Acton promotes sound economic thinking and an awareness of the moral underpinnings necessary for a free society.

  • Nathaniel

    Funny how God calls more people to such unpaid work after the world economy is crashed by the rich and greedy. Must be those mysterious ways.


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