More “now hiring” signs litter your local market square than you can count, the furniture you ordered in July still hasn’t arrived, your favorite coffee shop recently reduced their hours of operation, and if things are getting really serious near you, your friendly neighborhood Chipotle “temporarily closed” … indefinitely. God save the burritos.
We are experiencing a labor shortage, but our shortage is not due to a lack of jobs. On the contrary, the number of available jobs exceeds the rate of the unemployed and then some. So, why is this happening?
The research is unambiguous: we don’t know why. And we may not for some time, but we do know the shortage is indiscriminate on who it affects. Not even the size of your company can offer immunity as concerns continue to mount surrounding what the long term impacts these shortages will have on our communities. Simply put, the structural well-being of our entire economy is suffering due to a lack of workers.
We live in a cause-and-effect world and our economy is conditional: labor interrupted, economy harmed. No workers, no burritos.
This principle might seem obvious, but this is only because our everyday lives are built on the assumption of conditionality. We get out what we put in. This-for-that thinking isn’t just underneath what makes us show up for work (though it is, regardless of the amount of passion we have for the job), but it’s also built into the fabric of our relationships. Our critique of our coworker is based on some standard we hold that they’re not meeting. We’re more likely to invest in people when they are affirming us and meeting our needs, and we’re quick to hold back in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
Not even the church is immune to succumbing to conditionality. Without question, God has a Supreme List of Conditions which plays a significant role in the story of the Bible. But just like the presence of two trees in the garden, this law is of a different substance than the gospel. When we marry the two together, we end up telling the wrong story. Good news becomes a job description, ‘it is finished’ becomes ‘do this and live’, and the church exists to tell you how to keep the divine boss happy with your performance. Regardless of denomination, implicitly or explicitly, the message comes through in no uncertain terms: you can and should step up your game for God. Can you see the “now hiring” sign written in celestial letters in the front lawn?
But relief is found in rediscovering the one and only place conditionality doesn’t reign supreme: the kingdom of heaven. The economy of God does not operate within our same standards of cause and effect. Labor supply and the structural makeup of the kingdom of God do not go hand in hand like they do at Starbucks. God’s ways are not our ways, God’s economics are not our economics.
Many are familiar with Jesus’ famous words about the harvest being plentiful, but the workers being few. What we’re less likely to recall is the preceding verses that illustrate the shape of this work:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt 9:35-37)
We’re not the shepherds or laborers in Jesus’ metaphors, but the helpless crowd — the spiritually blind, sick, and deaf. Unable to walk to him, unable to find him, let alone where to look. We all have an infirmity that Jesus, the only healthy human being, came to heal.
God is not hiring workers, he’s healing and saving the sick and sending them out to tell the story of the wounded healer. God isn’t in the business of training employees for the kingdom but adding sheep to his flock. his kingdom is not built on our labors. If anything, it’s built on our ceasing from work. God doesn’t pay a wage but gives freely to those who haven’t earned a thing: the lazy, out of work, or unqualified.
Next time you see a now hiring sign, consider grace, the currency of God’s economy inviting you to rest in a completed work. Then tell your inner accountant you are going on strike from laboring for God to earn or maintain his approval. God is not hiring, but he’s always open for business.
This post originally appeared on mbird.com