Saturday, 16 December 2017

Unemployment is a tragedy and crime

IN the beginning... work! I want to encourage you to think and pray about one of the worst aspects of

IN the beginning... work! I want to encourage you to think and pray about one of the worst aspects of our current economic downturn. To explain why, I have to go back to the very beginning — to Genesis I in fact, the first chapter of the Bible.

By the time you have finished reading Genesis I, you know two things — at least.

First, you know that God is a creator, the source of everything that exists. You may not be clear about the mechanism by which he does that — you may believe, as I do, that he makes the world make itself via the mechanism of evolution, or he may have conjured the whole universe into being in six days (taking Genesis absolutely literally). For my purpose here, that doesn’t matter. If Genesis I is telling us anything, it is that God is the creator, the source of all that is.

Secondly, you know that men and women are made in the image of God: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” That is true of every man, woman and child. There is “that of God in every man”, as George Fox said, it is this which makes us different from other animals, this which deserves respect and encouragement in every human we have dealings with.

Made in the image of a creator-God, we are ourselves creators and in many cases deeply creative. We are made to be makers, created to be creative. Real, fulfilling, creative work brings out some of what is best in us and enables us to be what we most deeply are. That is why unemployment (we get to the point at last!) is such a scandal. Not only does it result in all sorts of social evils (the Devil DOES make work for idle, i.e. unoccupied, hands) and bring ruin and misery to many families and young people, it also denies “that which is of God” in us. It denies the best in us, it is a kind of blasphemy.

Even in Paradise, Adam and Eve had a job. Our national and local financial woes are awful but to tolerate unemployment as the price we pay for balancing the books is to make blasphemy no longer a “victimless crime”, as Richard Dawkins calls it.

So please, pray for our government, local and national; ask God to inspire employers and entrepreneurs who do so much to enable other people’s creativity; pray for job centre staff and ask God to guide them as they deal with those out of work; pray for the job-hunters themselves, that they may find work, that their gifts may be used, that their dignity as “images of God” might be recognised and respected.

Massive unemployment, especially among the young, is a crime and not one we should walk away from or ignore. There are signs of hope — very small green shoots in a murky English summer — but stay aware of the tragedy and let that awareness shape your praying, your thinking, your acting and (are you listening Messrs. Cameron, Milliband and Clegg?) your voting.

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