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TEXT: Psalm 37:25
SUBJECT: Gospel Changes #41: Unemployment
Wednesday morning, a man I know lost his job. This is bad news for most people, but for him, it's a disaster. The man is (a) fifty-six years old, (b) with health problems, (c) seven children at home, and (d) the job he lost is the only one he's ever had.
If the man calls me tonight, what should I tell him? Should I lie to him, saying his age doesn't matter? Should I urge him to tighten his belt and support a family of nine on unemployment? Should I cheer him up for a few Bible verses like the one I just read a moment ago or the old standby-
All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose?
Or should I give him no advice at all, and just sympathize with him? This is far better than lying to him or flattering him, or quoting 'upbeat' verses at him. But is there anything more I can do? I can't offer him a job or pay his bills or move his big family into my home. But there has to be more I can give him than a shoulder to cry on. There is: I can give him the Gospel.
You see, unemployed people need the same thing employed people need. Everybody needs the Gospel, whether he's got too much work, not enough work, or no work at all. 'The Gospel changes everything' including unemployment. This is the topic we'll explore in the next few minutes.
WHAT THE GOSPEL DOES NOT DO
Does the Gospel promise you'll never lose your job? No. Does it promise that-if you do lose your job-you'll soon get a better one? No. Does it make you an attractive job applicant or burnish your resume? No. Does the Gospel ward off bill collectors or keep the electricity on? No. Does it make your wife 'okay' with things or keep your kids in private school? No. Unemployed Christians have the same problems as unemployed Muslims or Hindus or Atheists.
Unemployment is hard, and the Gospel doesn't make it easy. So.what does the Gospel do about unemployment? About the thing itself, it does next to nothing in this life. The Gospel is not God's power to save your job. It's God's power to save.you. Whether you're between jobs or never work again.
What does the Gospel do for out-of-work Christians? I thought of seven things:
In the first place, the Gospel provides a solid reason for believing God will provide for you. The key words are 'solid reason'. The Gospel doesn't make us unrealistic or stupidly optimistic. It allows us to face facts-facts like 'the older you get the less employable you are', and still trust God to supply our needs.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to not worry about anything! Why not? Because if God feeds the birds, He will feed us; if He doesn't let the grass go naked, He will keep us clothed.
This is a remarkable thing to say any time and anywhere, but it was doubly so in 1st Century Israel. The people of God were desperately poor at the time; the Romans occupied the country and bled them white with taxes. What a disgrace! The Israelites had to feed and clothe and entertain and pay the Romans for the privilege of being oppressed by them!
It was to these people-poor, oppressed, and unsure of their next meal-that Jesus says, 'Quit worrying about food and clothing! Let God worry about it; you trust Him to supply all your needs'.
Why should they believe this? Why should you believe it? Jesus appeals to God's known character: He takes care of everything and that includes you. But how do we know He cares for us? Jesus doesn't say-not then He didn't.
A few years later, the answer came. There is nothing God won't do for our good-nothing! He'll even go to the cross to secure our welfare. Paul picks this up in Romans 8:32-
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also freely give us all things?
If God is good enough to sacrifice His Son for us, He's good enough to put food in our bellies and clothes on our backs. But the Gospel says He is good enough to send Jesus to the cross, and this gives us good, solid reason to believe He will give us a new job or take care of us without a job.
In the second place, the Gospel preserves our identity with or without work. I don't know about women, but a big part of a man's identity is bound up in the answer to this everyday question, 'What do you do?' A working man can be proud of his answer, 'I'm a doctor, I'm an electrician, I wait tables'. But what does he feel when he has to say, 'Uh.nothing'. He feels like nothing. While most people won't say it to his face, many of them agree with his feelings. When you lose your job, you lose a lot of yourself.
The Gospel gives you back to yourself. Maybe you're not an engineer any more, but you are somebody! Believers in Christ-with or without work-are heirs of God and children of the Resurrection.
Christians don't have to look at the ground; we don't have to blush or apologize for being out of work. Our jobs may be lost-but we're not. God has given us a name-so what if it's not 'Captain This' or 'Doctor That'! It's who we are; it makes us Somebody.
In the third place, when the Gospel is believed by the whole family, it eliminates the scorn and disappointment that makes home life so hard for the out-of-work man. Nothing hurts a good man more than letting his wife down. Maybe she doesn't say anything when he comes home without his job or turns in resume after resume without success, but he can see the disappointment on her face and the growing resentment. Soon, the resentment boils over into vicious ridicule. His confidence erodes, his manhood is lost, and life at home becomes hell on earth.
Believe me, I sympathize with women whose husbands are between jobs, especially when the men should be doing more but aren't. The pressure of bills; the danger of foreclosure; the husband's moods make family life miserable. But when the Gospel is believed, the wife can love her husband 'just as he is', and respect him in the fear of God. When she and the kids do this, it makes the home a warm place in a cold world, and improves his odds for getting a job.
But what can make a woman respect a man out of work? What can make her love her man when he's not as manly as he should be? The Gospel believed, meditated on, and lived by.
In the fourth place, the Gospel helps the unemployed believer by creating a caring-but not 'enabling'-community. The Gospel creates the church, and the church is a place where people will listen to you sympathetically, pray for you, help you, and encourage you to do your duty. We don't help the unemployed by always 'blaming the man' for their problems; sometimes 'the man' is responsible. And sometimes, he's not.
The church is a place where you are loved 'just as you are' and also challenged to become what God wants you to be.
In the fifth place, the Gospel reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God-not even unemployment. This is the teaching of Romans 8. God is for us, even when times are bad, and nothing can change His mind. He is for us in life and death, when we've got jobs and when we don't.
In the sixth place, the Gospel reminds us that our Christian privileges do not depend on having a job. What does the Gospel give us? For one thing, it gives us the forgiveness of sin; it reconciles us to God; it sends the Holy Spirit into our lives; it makes our death secure and our Resurrection certain.
Maybe these things don't put food on the table or keep a roof over our heads, but they're nice things to have when you're looking for work.
Finally, the Gospel promises a future without unemployment. In Revelation 2, Jesus suggests that 'the new heavens and the new earth' will be something like the first heavens and earth, something like the scene we find in Genesis 1-2. Man was made to work, and had Adam not fallen, he would have found great success and satisfaction in his work.
Of course, he did Fall, and this disrupted the Economy. It made work hard and frustrating, boring, and sometimes, hard-to-find. This is where we are today. Unemployment is part of this 'present evil age'. And John tells us this age is-
Not in the way most people think, passing away to leave nothing in its wake, the Burned Out Sun view of history. No, the present world will be renewed and made right, and this time, nothing can go wrong. Politicians always promise 'full employment', but they can't keep their promises. God can, and He will. The New Earth won't be a place of idleness and boredom, but of meaningful work, worshiping the Lord and putting all our gifts into His loving service.
This is the end of unemployment. And God haste the day. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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