Political rhetoric fails to reflect true value of work

We heard a lot of talk from both presidential candidates last night about the need for jobs in America, but throughout the campaign, neither Obama nor Romney has focused on the concept of truly valuable work, according to Hugh Whelchel, executive director of the Institute of Faith, Work & Economics. He blogs for the Washington Post:

If you listen to the rhetoric of both candidates, you will hear about jobs that pay the bills and let us do what we want to do, but not much more. It’s a self-centered view of work which has been so prominent in the last 40 years. It has brought us big government, crony capitalism and greedy Wall Street bankers, all of whom are just looking after their own interests. It is this “it’s all about me” perspective that has our nation headed in the wrong direction. It is found in the board rooms of corporations and in the halls of the local labor unions.

In my Christian tradition, the Bible tells us that work should do more that just pay the bills. Theologian John Stott defined work as “the expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God.” We should not just work to live, but live to work, seeking not only to improve our own circumstances but also those around us as well.

This is the message the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah told God’s people who were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. He challenged them to work for the peace and prosperity of the city, for if it prospered, they too would prosper (Jeremiah 29:7). If they worked hard at their jobs with the mindset that their work would benefit their community, they would also benefit from their work.

This resonates with me. Particularly in a time when "jobs" (as measured by employment statistics) are scarce, we have plenty truly important work to do.

Read Welchel's full post here.

Comments (1)

We are missing inspiring rhetoric along the lines of ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

However, it's too glib to dismiss the focus on a lack of jobs. The unemployment rate is 7.8%. For those graduating college it's less than 5%. We have segments of the population where the unemployment rate is 20 and 30%. Add to the number who have given up looking for work or employed in jobs for which they are overqualified or are not full time.

Our economy is not functioning well. It is a great waste that it operating with such a great level of unutilized resources. And it is a tragedy that so many people are denied the dignity of work and the ability to support themselves.

I don't believe presidents create jobs or that any candidate "knows how to create jobs." But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be concerned and express their concern.

I'm not sure what reaction they'd get if they pivoted and addressed those lucky enough to have jobs and spoke about the virtue of doing something to help others. Is that the answer the unemployed want to hear?

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