Making Unemployment Work
Philippians 4.4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again: Rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Friends, we need to talk. There’s a great taboo out there that we struggle to address, but statistically any of us could expect to be made redundant more than once during a normal working life. And, with current economic uncertainty, there is likely someone in your church, your workplace or your wider friendship group who may lose their job in the coming months, or whose business may not survive.
We need to talk about unemployment. Not just here but in our communities and in our churches. We need to learn to lift the stigma from the subject, and we need to learn how to help each other through the crisis and uncertainty this brings.
Redundancy is not divine judgement - unemployment falls upon the just and the unjust, in equal measure. It is a factor of the way our economies are shaped. It is a factor which gives us job mobility when times are good, but which then equally gives job-insecurity when times are bad. Unemployment along with any other societal or individual crisis does not change who God is, and does not change how he sees us. We are still deeply loved, sinful humans redeemed by his grace. Nothing can change that.
Paul’s approach to difficult circumstances in the verses above is decidedly contrarian. When the going gets tough - rejoice!
What he’s getting is not some masochistic joy at being in trouble, or psychobabble about the power of positivity; what he’s talking about is worship. And worship comes not from learning to sing more loudly, but from learning to see God more clearly, including when we’re in tough places.
Paul wants us to worship for three reasons: first because the Lord is near; second because the Father is listening to our prayers; third because the Lord Jesus will guard our hearts and minds whatever our situation. Paul is not someone to give shallow advice, he has gone from prison to beating to shipwreck and back again. He has known hunger, tiredness, poverty. He has also experienced the overwhelming power of God’s goodness towards those he loves.
Crisis can be a great time to renew our relationship with the Lord Jesus. To find time to walk with him, talk with him, cry with him, moan with him. To open our hearts to him, to bring our worries to him, and to see his work in our hearts - not to give us better jobs or more security, but to bring us peace in the midst of turmoil.
Economic uncertainty is a level playing field that hits us all - believer and not-yet-believer alike. But we enter that playing field as people of hope and hope has the power to draw others towards Jesus.
This is a massive subject and we want to begin a conversation. It is a reality that we as Christians should engage with. Not just for our sake or the sake of those close to us, but also for the sake of those who will feel destroyed by rejection and hopelessness in the coming months. Please contact us if you have personal testimony relating to the Lord’s peace in crisis, or if you have practical ideas on how we as the body of Christ could offer support to those around us in crisis.
WORKWISE, SEPTEMBER 2020
Part 1 of a mini-series looking at how Paul’s teaching from Philippians 4 can guide our thoughts on the topic of unemployment.