Making Unemployment Work 2
On Sunday 18 October 2020 the British Times newspaper led on its front page with the story of 51 year old Edmund O’Leary from London, who has been out of work for the last 18 months. On Friday night he tweeted “I am not ok. Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you.” Within 24 hours the tweet was seen by more than 10 million people, liked by more than 230,000, and responded to by tens of thousands! Compassion in 140 characters.
For most people unemployment is a real issue. It can wreck lives, strain family relationships and leave us feeling worthless, mistreated, angry, ashamed, resentful towards friends, colleagues and even God.
But unemployment can never take away God’s grace, his gift of salvation and his gift of purpose for our lives...listen to Paul’s words from Ephesians 2:8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If you have the misfortune to lose a job, you are still loved by Jesus; you are still a recipient of God’s saving grace; and you still have good works that you can do for God! These things do not change.
Of course when Paul talks about good works he doesn’t mean 9-5 jobs, what he’s talking about is the reality of our place and purpose within God’s plans. Ever since Eden, human activity within God’s creation has been part of his design. Avodah, the Hebrew word for work in Genesis 2:15, is God’s gift that lets us show off our God-given abilities, care for the planet, care for each other and worship God.
Stripping away our source of income, or some false sense of security, never takes us out of the plans God has for us. And it never takes away our opportunity to do something brilliant (if unexpected) with the gifts the Lord has given us, to do: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”...good works that use our God-given gifts for his glory, for the service of others and for the care of creation…whether paid or unpaid.
In 1995 I was made redundant. I was single with no dependants. I already had a yearning in my heart to find a different direction for my life, redundancy just pushed me in the right direction. What followed was two years in which I was re-employed by the same company; moved country twice; moved house seven times; lost one of my parents; got married; spent a year studying the Bible; spent two years teaching young adults in my church (unpaid); and eventually by the Lord’s grace I came into the work I have now been doing for 23 years. A bit of a roller-coaster, but one littered with grace.
I know it’s counterintuitive, but job loss (or an enforced slowing down of life, like lockdown) may actually give us a break in our ‘normal’ patterns of busyness and self-preservation. It may give us time to reinvest in our relationship with our heavenly Father. And it may give us the reason to re-examine the gifts and opportunities that the Lord has placed around us right here, right now, through which we could serve and glorify him.
Of course you don’t need to lose your job to do this. It would be a great thing for any of us to do… to find sabbath in our busy world and to ask our Father once again how he would see us live the lives he has given us.
If you or others nearby do find yourselves out of work then know for sure that the compassion our heavenly Father has for each of us, and his interest in our lives doesn’t stop at 140 characters in a tweet.