“When People Give Up Looking for Work, What Do They Do?” A 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, 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 your vocational passion and calling that we often neglect that 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 for a job in my field, I sewed 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 them 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 , 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.

Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action)

Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action)

Addressing topics ranging from the family to work, politics, and the church, Jordan J. Ballor shows how the Christian faith calls us to get involved deeply and meaningfully in the messiness of the world. Drawing upon theologians and thinkers from across the great scope of the Christian tradition, including Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Abraham Kuyper, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and engaging a variety of current figures and cultural phenomena, these essays connect the timeless insights of the Christian faith to the pressing challenges of contemporary life.

Visit the official website at www.getyourhandsdirtybook.com


  • Dr. Charlie Self

    Thank you for an outstanding admonition. More than once in my 35 years of adult labor I have worked multiple jobs considered beneath my education and qualifications. In every circumstance I added value to the company and community, sustained my family and transitioned to a better professional task when that season was done. One of those seasons was when I was 28 with a graduate degree and several broken promises from different organizations. I taught part-time at three colleges, worked two other jobs and never needed government help. Our loving family and Christians friends helped at times and we made it through several difficult months. I still enjoy multiple tasks and my children are all diligent laborers. Messy is hard. messy is humbling. Messy is where most people throughout history have lived. May our Lord help us see the Lenten grace in messy.