At Work & Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

The Church, Work, and Economics

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the second part of our interview with Tanya Ross-Lane. In part one, Ross-Lane shared her experience struggling with unemployment. Today she discusses what unemployment has taught her about economics, and why it is essential that churches teach about work and economics.

As someone who has been unemployed for a few years now, what is it like receiving unemployment benefits?

I have a problem with a culture that would rather find ways to pay folks for not working. I have received unemployment since losing my job, but the system is broken. Most folks, including myself, would rather earn a paycheck. I want to add value to the marketplace using my talents and skill and receive financial compensation for a job well done.

Besides the unemployment rate, what do you see as the major problem in our economy today?

There are two major problems: the entitlement culture and greed. Our current economic state is one that has been highjacked by the entitlement culture—belief that someone owes you an equal lifestyle—and a class of greedy business people—crony capitalists who are dishonest and fix the market for their advantage. This economy has reminded me that I have to be salt and light in my next role.

Why do you think it’s important for everyone to have a basic understanding of economics?

Economics is not just for academics and the government. If we don’t understand it, it’s hard to hold academics and government officials accountable. I didn’t study economics in school and I had no clue how it applied to my everyday life. But I began to realize its importance when I learned about the war on poverty, which started fifty years ago. We thought we were being compassionate by increasing the welfare state, but now people are worse off than they were fifty years ago.

Why is economics important for Christians to understand in particular?

Economics is all through the Bible. I’m going through the whole Bible right now, reading it every day, and it’s just amazing how much I see about work and economics: handling finances, dealing with government, rending under Caesar what is Caesar’s, and Jubilee. We have to ask ourselves, “How do we take those concepts and apply them to today’s world?”

In your experience, do you think many Christian churches teach the importance of economics?

No. We just don’t talk about economics at church. We just talk about tithing and we miss the whole point. We are supposed to be great stewards. If we are not seeking to understand economics, it hinders our ability to steward our resources well.

How do you think the economic references in the Bible apply to today’s world?

One thing you learn in the Bible is that the poor are always going to be with us. Some think we can eradicate poverty completely. Others think we don’t have to take care of them at all. I ask myself, “What am I supposed to be doing? What is my role in taking care of my family and the poor?” The Bible teaches us that we must care for the poor even though they will always be with us.

Do you think many Christian churches teach the importance of integrating faith and work?

We get a lot of guest speakers on missions and marriage, but not on work or economics. Most churches do a great job explaining the Sabbath, but they don’t explain it the same way God does. God says, “I am resting because what I’ve done is good.”

We need to connect faith with work in terms of being made in the image of God. I wish there was a way we could integrate that understanding—that work is good—into our church teachings and into our own lives.

Why do you think churches fail to cover these topics?

We have forgotten how and why we must work. It’s not just to earn a paycheck, though that is important and needed in order to take care of one’s self and family. But we were created in the image of God. He worked and so must we. God assigned Adam work even in the Garden of Eden paradise. With the curse, work becomes harder. Work is also not assigned to us like God assigned Adam’s work, which makes it harder to find what we should do in order to please God. But since we are created in the image of God, we have his DNA to create and make a difference.

What does it mean to integrate faith with work?

Our work is to create experiences that show others who God is. For example, when I was cleaning the bathroom walls and floors of fast food restaurants that others had trashed, I didn’t always feel good about it. But my attitude needed to be adjusted to think about how others would feel about using a clean and fresh-smelling bathroom rather than why I was doing such a nasty job.

Work is also about transformation. When a worker adds value to a service or product, they are transforming something. Each one of us needs to figure out how we can contribute to the economy with dignity and excellence.

What role should the Church play in teaching about work and economics? Leave your comments here.

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