How can the Church, and church pople, support the unemployed? We can help them, first of all, by understanding the current unemployment situation. We must appreciate the plight unemployed people are in. But we must also help people get work into perspective. We should discuss with them the true place of work in life.
Now Christianity does regard work as important - indeed it is a commission from God Genesis 1 and 2 , although here we should realise that paid work is not the only kind of work there is. Paid work should certainly not be regarded as the be-all and end-all of life. How do we help people get a better perspective? A firmer grasp of the Christian gospel will help. Let me explain. What the work ethic says is, Your value lies in what you contribute to society; you earn your salvation through work.
The Christian gospel says, You are valued as you are, as a human being, as a child of God, as a person for whom Christ died. You are valued before you make any contribution.
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You don't earn salvation, you accept it as God's free gift. The returning prodigal thought he would earn his way back to acceptance by his father by becoming "as one of his hired servants" salvation through paid employment but the father accepted him, with open arms, as he was; he accepted him because he was his son. And so it is with us. We are valuable to God irrespective of our employment status. Where, though, does work come in, from the Christian point of view? Work is, properly speaking, an expression of gratitude for value already given.
The correct sequence is: God loves us and values us.
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We accept his love and our own value. We want to love him in return. To love God, in the words of the New Testament, is to keep his commandments. Chief among his commandments is that we love one another.
One of the ways we love others is by using our talents to meet their needs. A main way of doing this is through our daily work. So a very important way of helping the unemployed is to preach the gospel to them. However, the message may take some time to sink in.
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The contrary signals from society are very strong. In addition to being told they are only valuable if they are working, people are counted worthy to receive unemployment benefit only if they are "actively seeking work". There are also many practical ways the Church and church people can help. Church premises can be made available, perhaps as a drop-in centre, where unemployed people can meet for a coffee and a chat.
Or information or advice leaflets can be provided, which tell people where to go for help, or what alternative opportunities there are for them e. In many church congregations there are people with particular skills for helping the unemployed - for instance, counselling skills, or expertise in financial matters. I should like now to address particular groups of people. First of all, employers faced with the task of making people redundant.
Do so in as humane a manner as possible. Offer people practical help, such as outplacement counselling. Don't feel personally guilty about making people redundant.
Your action is dictated not by malevolence but by economic factors beyond your control. The survival of the firm may well depend on some people having to lose their jobs. Secondly, people who have the privilege of regular paid employment - and it is these days rightly regarded as a privilege. Perhaps you would consider whether you might be part of the problem.
I'm thinking of those who work excessively long hours.
What an irony this is: some are overworked while others have no work at all. Those without work would love to share some of your excess hours although I appreciate that the number of hours worked is not always in the individual's own control. Now a word to the unemployed themselves.
If you are without a job, know what makes you a valuable human being. Work is important, but it's not everything; and besides, work need not be the same as paid work. Realise that God loves and values people whether they are in paid employment or not. Tell others about your unemployment, especially your own family. Try also to trust members of the church family. Let them share your burden. And what of the church congregation? Be an understanding, sensitive congregation. Don't pry.
How can I trust God when I am facing unemployment, foreclosure, or bankruptcy?
Don't demand to know people's employment situation. But offer them openings, opportunities to share their feelings - if they wish. Look out for opportunities to proclaim the gospel message to them about where their worth really lies. But do so sensitively. Engage in voluntary work which directly or indirectly helps unemployed people - e.
I have already spoken of the use of church premises and members of the congregation using their professional skills. Moses graduated with Latin honors, and he ended up watching sheep. After God promises repeatedly that things will work out, and that Aaron is going to help Moses, Moses eventually agrees to leave his barren wasteland for the fertile lands of the Nile—ripe for conflict.
Unemployment has taught me some difficult lessons. Not having that, even for only a short time, can cripple us. Then there were the constant lessons about identity issues.
Every time I got on Facebook or Twitter, I felt like everyone I knew was accelerating towards success, and I was sputtering around in my pajamas. Those experiences, when stacked up like up cars in a wreck, can weigh down every part of our being. All the pithy C.
But there is something to be learned from those identity crises, a lesson that is freeing and life-changing: the realization that God loves us regardless of how successful we are or what we do for a living. Moses crossed the desert, broken, leaving Egypt and everything he knew. God came to him in a bush, of all places, and told him to go back and change the world. Nor can we experience the overwhelming peace from knowing that God is writing a story in our lives that is bigger and more glorious than our professions or our degrees.
God likes these barren wastelands, because it is there, amid the sheep and the identity crises, that we change. He plies our nature and whispers into our wandering: I am going to be with you.