I’ve come across this idea a couple of times from a well-regarded Christian university website: Don’t think that you deserve a job. The first time I saw this, I was dismayed, and after coming across it again, I had to think about it more (remember to count to ten before responding when angry!) and organize my thoughts. The statement didn’t advise that you shouldn’t think you deserve a certain job, just that you don’t deserve a job.
Most People Need to be Employed in Order to Survive in Our World
In our urban day and age, most persons rely on a job (or multiple jobs) to live. Very few of us (and probably none that are able to read this) are hunter-gatherers anymore, and sadly, very few of us are even farmers. Most all of us have jobs because those with the means control the land and wealth, and today, a very few people control a vast amount of wealth. There used to be movies made about the rich, the banks, the industrious turned industrial, taking over family farms (and the like) by any means necessary. These weren’t just movies, of course, but were made to show an unfairness and a harm in our “free” society. As our society became more and more industrial and urban, fewer and fewer people were left the dignity of working out their own livelihood.
Today, many Western people may have the energy and some means to start their own business, but it is not easy and, indeed, many businesses require specialized knowledge. Besides that, as any small business owner knows, competition from big corporations is often no competition at all (how many small businesses were closed due to WalMart’s impact alone?); you can’t compete when paying workers a living wage in a Western country while corporations have slaves (or the equivalent) to do their work elsewhere. How sad is it that the U.S. fought one of the bloodiest wars in human history to end slavery, only to go back to a slave-based economy in the 20th century? It’s sad and harmful in many many ways. In any case, if everyone were able to have their own business, then there’d be no one left to hire as an employee.
So, I can’t gather food where I live, it’s not likely that I’d be able to start my own farm, I’m having the darndest time developing or keeping my own business, but I need the country’s currency to at least rent a cheap place to sleep, eat, and clothe myself; so, I need a job to obtain these things. Or I could beg. Or steal. In a Darwinist dog-eat-dog world, this might seem natural and therefore nothing to complain about. But, that Christian site said to not think that I deserve a job—the same as saying that I don’t deserve a means of survival in my current culture. If the writer(s) didn’t mean this, they should have rephrased it.
God Gave us Physical Life so it Follows that We “Deserve” Physical Life
As a Christian–a follower of Christ and a vessel of Christ (if a true Christian)–can I take what the writer(s) said as God-inspired? Would God tell me, “you shouldn’t think that you deserve a job”? Spiritually, before I was in Christ, I deserved hell for rejecting God (John 3:18, 3:36, Romans 5:9). This had to do with my relationship with God and the spiritual order of things. But having a means of survival while living with my fellow humans is a different thing. How does God want us to behave amongst ourselves here on earth?
A parable comes to mind, the parable of the workers in the Vineyard from Matthew 20:1-16. In this parable, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires men at the beginning of the day to work his vineyard, the vineyard being a metaphor for God’s kingdom. Throughout the day the landowner goes to the area in the market place where men wait to be hired, and he hires whoever is waiting and willing to work. At the end of the day, they all get paid, and it’s all the same amount for a full day’s labor. Those who worked all day complain, of course, but God is generous; His ways are not our ways.
While the overall point of the parable is spiritual, that “the last will be first, and the first will be last,” it also conveys God’s generosity and the value of humans as equal in his sight. All the men that worked for Him either worked all day or desired to work all day. That no one else hired some of them all day (His last hires were at 5 pm) did not diminish their worth or their need for sustenance. They deserved to live whether someone with the means came along and hired them or not. Humans have value in and of themselves, and it’s not given to another man to say whether another deserves to live or not, except in one situation: murder.
God’s words and covenant with all mankind as given through Noah provide insight into what God thinks of the value of human life:
. . . for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind (Genesis 9:5-6).
Here He says that because humans are made in His image, anyone—even animals—will be held accountable for killing one. He actually says in there that “by humans” the guilty party (murderer) shall be executed (from other passages in scriptures, we can know that it’s fine to defend oneself; after all, you’d be trying to prevent a murder from taking place). If God orders capital punishment for murderers, then denying someone the ability to eat is obviously wrong.
Mulling on this a little further, I think we don’t give enough consideration to what it means to be made in the image of God. While we are to be humble in our view of ourselves relative to God, and we’re to be humble toward each other because we are all equal in God’s sight, we should also be overwhelmingly joyous and confident at the thought of our future glorified body (and state of being) that would seem God-like if we could see it now. If you have never read The Weight of Glory by CS Lewis, which my thought here attempts to reflect, I highly recommend doing so. (The small book by the same name holds the 1941 address/sermon, which was also published in Theology later the same year.)
We should be telling People they Deserve all that we can Give, Out of Love for God and Neighbor
God gave us the Ten Commandments, but Jesus Christ said that the sum of all God’s commands was to love God fully, and your neighbor, too:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).
There are all kinds of other passages, too, about working and supporting one’s family, parents, widows, and the poor generally; about all humans being equal in God’s sight . . . the list goes on. So, it seems a very odd twist to say that we should not think that we deserve a job. Yes, apparently we do; we deserve the life God gave us, we deserve to be able to support ourselves in this God-given life, and from all that God says, we deserve others to think we do and to be treated by others with respect! To think otherwise would be a form of false humility, or perhaps something worse.
So instead of making some person who doesn’t have a job (or who is underemployed) feel like God doesn’t care by saying, “you shouldn’t think you deserve a job,” why don’t Christians say to the wealthy who make their riches and easy living off of others’ cheap and hard labor, “You don’t deserve stock profit”? Let’s get the conversation going in the direction it belongs according to New Testament teachings (where it is made more obvious relative to the spread-out Old Testament). You might be interested in these also: What does God say about employer obligations, worker rights? And “Which Libtard said That?” (hint: the Bible is involved).