by Stephen Angliss
Hard work is no longer cool among young Christians.
In fact, it’s not cool among many young people at all. In a recent study, researchers conducted a survey among members of the millennial generation–approximately aged 15 to 30– concerning their beliefs concerning work.
In that study they discovered the following traits:
Millennials have a Passion to Accomplish Important Things in the World.
- Unlike the generation before them, that was primarily concerned with making as much money as possible, this generation values meaning over pay. For example, 87% of millennials claimed that they would choose a career at a company that held the same values as them.
- Furthermore, millennials also ranked pay as fourth on a list of what drew them to a company, behind “the values of the organization,” “opportunity for personal growth” and “the role itself.”
Millennials do not Prioritize Work over their Personal Lives.
- However, in that same study, research found that, although the vast majority of millennials wanted to make a difference in the world, 69% of those same millennials also did not believe that regular office attendance should be necessary on a regular basis.
- In addition, 89% of millennials also claimed that they would prefer not to work at a place that required them to work certain hours–preferring instead to work according to their own set schedules.
- Finally, 56% of millennials stated that they would refuse to work at a location that banned social media during work hours, and 45% would even choose more vacation time over better pay.
These findings show a rather alarming contradiction. Although millennials seek to accomplish the most, they are willing to sacrifice the least. They want to change the world–as long as they can stay updated on Instagram. They wish to see radical change–just as long as they can do it on their own time and pace. Perhaps this is why, according to the Washington Post, only 27% of millennial college graduates have a job in their field.
These attitudes are even reflected in popular culture. Millennials today have become the “Jim Halpert Generation.” By watching episodes of the tv show, The Office, they see that putting in minimal effort at work is cool, while “trying” is weak and pathetic. Goofing off is seen as acceptable, and even righteous, because it shows how wrong and ridiculous those people are who take their jobs seriously.
The rising popularity of post-apocalyptic movies also reveal this. Evil is usually portrayed as “the system,” where people mindlessly work in urban settings in drab clothing while the “heroes” are spontaneous, individualistic, young adults who rebel against the larger system.
Finally, even in Disney movies, the constant message of “follow your heart” reaches kids, but offers no advise on the high cost and effort required of lofty goals.
So how does this all relate to Christianity?
Generational traits are usually reactionary to those of the generation before them: their parents. For example, the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X became known for materialism and corporate greed in their mid-life, so naturally their children would seek futures based on values rather than money.
In the same way, the value of Christian millennials is a reaction against previous generations that they perceive as legalistic and hypocritical. They saw their parents attend church every Sunday, only to get a divorce. They were barraged with strict rules concerning sex, drugs, and “secularism,” only to find their parents and youth pastors make the same mistakes.And so, the rise of grace has made its way into popular Christian culture, and rightly so. Thanks to the free-grace teachings of men like John Piper and Mark Driscoll, millennial Christians embrace the notion that grace–not works–is the primary agent of spiritual growth. Trying and straining to please God by avoiding sin is no longer necessary for spiritual growth as opposed to trusting and abiding in Him to produce fruit for believers.
This is a good thing for the Church spiritually. But, it is a bad thing vocationally. That is because I believe that this spiritual attitude towards a works-based righteousness has wrongly spilled over into the workforce, where young Christians now think that trying hard at a vocation is a sin and unpleasing to God.
I fear that millennials believe that if they try hard to do well at their jobs, they are turning it into an idol. I fear millennials believe that if they put great amounts of effort into their vocation, then they have “sold out” and loved the world more than God.
This is not true!
When God created Adam, the very basis of Adam’s relationship with God was work. Adam was instructed to glorify God by working and tending to His creation. This is a chore that Adam took delight in. It was only when Adam slacked on his work, that his relationship with God was broken.
In the same way Joseph helped create monumental global change for centuries to come thanks to his approach to menial, lowly, secular work. Whether as a servant, prisoner, or royal advisor–all secular fields– Joseph devoted himself wholly to it as an act of worship to God. He sweated and strived, but there was never a concern in his mind of “selling out” or rejecting God’s grace. Instead, he worked as a means of highlighting God’s grace. He gave every boss he had his 100% to show the power and goodness of his God.
The fact of the matter is, for Christians, there is no such thing as a secular field. All work is worth doing for God because all work belongs to God. Of course, there are exceptions where the job itself is a direct sin against God. This article is not suggesting anyone become a hit-man or a call girl. But still, a company or employer that is unchristian does not mean that the work done cannot be “Christian.” Joseph worked for pagans, criminals, and tyrants, and yet all the work he did was to God and for God’s glory.
Theologian Dallas Willard famously said that “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Yes, Christians must always rely on the strength of God’s grace in their lives over their personal abilities. Yet, Christians should also redeem those abilities in light of God’s grace–not to replace it, but to highlight it.
Millennials can have their cake and eat it to. For all their quirkiness and inconsistencies, , millennials can truly change the world and work hard doing it, but only if they see vocational work as complementary to God’s grace, and not contradictory.
[Tabis, John. “Want To Attract And Retain The Best People? Put Your Employees First.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Aug. 2016.]
Stephen Angliss is a humanities teacher at Providence Classical Christian School in Kirkland, Washington. His loves are God and family, his passions are preaching and ministry, and his interests are history, theology, politics, literature, woodworking, football, and the outdoors. He blogs at Between Eternities.