The “Great Resignation”

Posted on March 16, 2022


“The Underside of the ‘Great Resignation’” by Mene Ukueberuwa appeared on Jan. 22-23 in the “Opinion” column of the WSJ and I was curious. What in the world was the “Great Resignation?” Perhaps it was someone fed up with their job who resigned to answer the call to something better? Bubba just had a “great resignation.”

No, it was about a book by a fellow named Nicholas Eberstadt, a political scientist, whose book, Men Without Work appeared not too long ago. The great resignation is another new term invented by today’s word mavens to describe “the record levels of jobs in the pandemic era.” These men are “defectors from work.”

Defectors from work? I kept reading. “Despite more than a year of plentiful job openings and rising pay, ‘millions of fewer Americans,’ wrote Eberstadt, ‘are working or seeking work.’”

My next thought was pretty quotidian. Like that? I can do word mavenry also. I had a friend in prep school in New Jersey a million years ago named Eddy Eberstadt. I wonder if Nicholas and Eddy were related? Once I got past that silly thought, I moved along.

Eberstadt then took up the question: why aren’t men wanting to work? We’ll leave you girls off this column. For another day.  Here’s where I think he failed. Men aren’t working because of “structural economic changes” and “government transfer payments,” and he explains those a bit. But those are symptoms for the most part, not causes.

The pandemic was also accused of contributing. But the flu pandemic of 1919 was far worse and it didn’t change our attitude towards work.

Mr. Eberstadt–I’m sure a good political scientist and perhaps even related to my prep school mate—Eddy–, failed to answer to one basic question: why men don’t want to work today?

 And two, while I’m examining this phenomenon, Eberstadt also failed to address the phenomenon of what massive unemployment did to men in the early years of the Depression in the 1930s. Or perhaps it simply wasn’t mentioned in Ukueberuwa’s review of some of Eberstadt’s work.

 One, I don’t understand why a man doesn’t want to work. Men are not only called by Christian Scripture to work as part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but we are also defined, given meaning in our lives, by our work, by what we do.

In the Depression when thousands and millions of men lost their jobs, hundreds and probably thousands committed suicide in desperation of not being to take care of their families. Suicide was not the answer, but anxiety, despair, and destitution drove many over the line.

Scripture is very clear on work. Perhaps the most famous injunction was given by the Apostle Paul in one of his letters to the Thessalonians: “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), while in a letter to his acolyte Timothy, Paul expands a bit: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy, 5:8).

I got so into the subject of work and wealth in Scripture a few years ago that I even wrote a little book about it: Work and Wealth in Scripture: How to Grow, Prosper and Work as a Christian (2015). You can find it on amazon.

Work is not a dirty word; any more than pleasure is to be damned by the serious Christian. But we lose much when the satisfaction and contribution of one’s work to our world is undermined and condemned by other men satisfying their senses and so forgetting why God put them on earth.

Work shouldn’t be equated with avarice or greed for power and wealth. All of those will thoroughly corrupt some men, from politicians to mega billionaires, the gurus of Silicon Valley and its denizens. My question to them is: what are you doing with all the wealth and power you have acquired? Bill Gates today, by the way, is a good modern example of what Andrew Carnegie preached in 1894.

Andrew Carnegie (you youngsters can Google him) worked hard for his millions, then turned around and wrote a piece called “The Gospel of Wealth.” It is not long, and you should read it. It is a call to the wealthy to deal with their wealth as God would want you to. It has often been called the philanthropists workbook.

Carnegie was addressing what work produces, at least in some instances: immense wealth and prosperity.

The opposite of wealth is of course poverty. Most of us fall in between the economic categories of the great wealthy or the poor and destitute. We belong to the great middle class. And there is the concomitant problem, or challenge, of prosperity. What do you do with it? Not only Carnegie but Christian pastors over the centuries have addressed this challenge.

After dealing with the issue of your salvation, or where you will spend eternity, I don’t think there is a more important issue than work and wealth. Judeo-Christian principles address how men deal with both, and you may not like the answers, but they are God’s answers, lots more important and significant than yours.

Published as “Work and wealth still valued in spite of ‘The Great Resignation,'” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday February 5, 2022

Posted in: work