There's no unemployment working with Jesus says Australia's JOHN SMITH.

John Smith
John Smith

No matter how much study we do, eventually we all have to work for a Iiving. However, more and more people are not getting a chance to do paid work. For them the identity that comes from supporting themselves is not a reality. Whether we face long years of employment or unemployment in our future, we have to get a mission, survive - and thrive.

Blokes like me, who grew up in the 50s and 60s, didn't really face the problem of unemployment. Unless you were super lazy or allergic to work, you could get a reasonable job. But by the 80s, when unemployment started to kick in, the world was changing. We were recognising that women should be allowed to work if they wanted to, make their own money and decide what they want in life. Just that fact alone meant thousands more people were looking for jobs, who wouldn't have been looking for them in my Granddad's day. Added to that is all the technological change that has occurred this century. While machines may put people out of work sometimes, they have at least saved millions of people from doing life threatening jobs that are just plain dirty, hard work and not much good for your ego. Mind you, I do remember in my Dad s day that people seemed to take pride doing a hard days work like digging a ditch or painting a house and felt good about contributing to the rest of society.

I think believers in Jesus understand a secret about work because the Bible has some instructions about it. It says, If a man will not work, neither should he eat. Of course that s not saying that disabilities, whether they are physical, emotional or psychological, shouldn't be taken into account. Plus if someone can't work because society won't provide a job, then you can hardly blame him or her for that.

You have to be careful with the word lazy because sometimes rich folk who have things goin for them and have never had to line up day after day for a job call anybody that s unemployed lazy. That's just not fair. But, on the other hand, the Bible s right, if you don't put in, you really shouldn't have the right to milk anybody else. A lot of people think the Bible is just a bunch of religious crap, but it s full of sensible advice about all sorts of things. It also says whatever you commit yourself to doing, do it with all your might. It says we should work as if we were working for God. Now that might sound strange. But if you believe you're not just an accident looking for somewhere to happen, that there is a purpose to your life - and something as big as God is behind it; it makes a lot of difference.

The wheels fall off for most people if they re left without a job for too long. I believe that you are much better off to find useful work even if the wage you get is not much more than unemployment benefits. There s something different about having a job for each day rather than sitting around feeling bored and depressed or getting involved in crooked stuff because you've got time to hang out with the wrong kind of mates.

Any of us who are youth workers can tell heaps of stories about people we've seen come unstuck after a lengthy period of unemployment. But I want to suggest to you that it s not just the fact of unemployment that makes people come unstuck during this time. Does work give meaning to our lives? Are we significant because of what we do, or is it really the opposite, that what we do is significant because of who we are? I've met people in the Third World living on garbage dumps, collecting scraps to sell at the market to survive. They had more faith and deeper love for one another than some of the successful fat cats of our own culture.

Employment and unemployment can both be a bummer if there's no real purpose and meaning behind them. That's because we are not just any old animal but creatures with spiritual capacity and relationship with God. The work we do is significant because we do it as human beings. A few centuries ago, if you were asked what did you make this week, you might have replied with pride, I made a table and French polished it. I made it with real dovetailed joints so it will hold together for a lifetime and the Mayor of the city has bought it and I feel proud my table is sitting in his office. The same question - what did you make this week? - would now get the reply, I made $500.

That might just sound like a play on words, but we really are thinking differently. We work now to make money so that we can own stuff and a lot of our jobs do nothing to give us dignity, meaning or purpose. We've lost the sense that we're all in it together, that there is a great purpose in being human. Work is not what gives us real meaning. It's God and relationships with one another. But all of us ought to have the right to express the energy, meaning, creativity and enthusiasm for life in some form of work. And there's no unemployment working with Jesus. There's a whole world to change, justice to fight for and real friendship in faith and commitment together.
John Smith CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.