This spring and summer, a lot of headlines about the economy sang a similar tune:
The Wall Street Journal: Job Openings Are at Record Highs. Why Aren’t Unemployed Americans Filling Them?
The New York Times: Why Aren’t People Going Back to Their Jobs?
The Washington Post: It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America.
Across the country, hundreds of companies and businesses, many of them in the hospitality and service industry, were searching for employees. And they weren’t finding them. Some state governments began to halt the federal government’s unemployment funds, worried that the cash was disincentivizing unemployed people from working. Companies and businesses began to raise salaries and add benefits. But many people weren’t persuaded; they weren’t going back to their pre-pandemic line of work.
One restaurant worker in Austin told The Washington Post:
“The staffing issue has actually a lot more to do with the conditions that the industry was in before covid and people not wanting to go back to that, knowing what they would be facing with a pandemic on top of it. People are forgetting that restaurant workers have actually experienced decades of abuse and trauma. The pandemic is just the final straw.”
Many of us, especially those of us who are professionals, may believe our work matters … or at least it ought to. We’ve heard Christian leaders make the case for work glorifying God and theological arguments being made to stir us to good work. But is this always the case? Has this framework, instead, ever been used to dehumanize and exploit workers?
Luke Bobo serves as vice president of networks for Made to Flourish, a ministry that helps pastors and churches better understand work and economics in light of their faith. He is the author of Living Salty and Light Filled Lives in the Workplace, A Layperson’s Guide to Biblical Interpretation,and Race, Economics and Apologetics.
Bobo joined global media manager Morgan Lee and executive editor Ted Olsen to discuss if the Bible’s instructions about work make sense today, what is different about work in this moment, and how to navigate the additional abuse and exhaustion the pandemic has brought on.
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Music by Sweeps.
The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu