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A biblical response to quiet quitting

A higher number of American workers quit their jobs in May 2018 compared to the month prior | Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

By now, nearly everyone who spends time online has heard the term “quiet quitting,” but nobody seems to agree on what it means. 

Most major news outlets have covered the topic in some way, but this workplace trend seems to mean different things to different people. For younger workers suffering from disengagement and burnout, it can just mean establishing healthy boundaries and expectations with their employers; for their managers, it can represent an alarming form of emotional absenteeism and lost productivity.

At its core, quiet quitting strikes at an invaluable and eternal question: What are our beliefs and attitudes toward work? And, for Christians specifically, what is an honorable, biblical response to the work set before us?

David Whyte, in his book Crossing the Unknown Sea, says, “… the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest … the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” Both exhaustion and burnout exist for many reasons. One source is a poor perspective of work. Often, we see work singularly (aka our job, or a role we possess), and we put most of our energy and effort into this one role, leaving very little mental, emotional or physical energy at the end of the workday. We leave work wanting to crash on the couch and not touch any other responsibilities, saying, “I just need a little break, a short rest.” But the kids still need to be fed, the house cleaned, the car picked up from the shop, time with the friends who are coming over for dinner, etc.

Wholeheartedness requires a shift in our beliefs and attitudes toward work. As Christians, we can see that wholeheartedness does not just come from our job. We can take a different perspective that brings greater satisfaction and a healthier way of life.

“Work” in scripture and for Christians is not a job or role that we simply play. Work was given to us as a gift from God, and it is modeled in His image. Consider what God did in Genesis and the creation story. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and everything in it. He took nothing and made something. He created order out of chaos. 

Then, He gifted the earth to Adam to “cultivate” and “tend.” Scripture tells us that Adam’s first act of “work” was to name the animals. In essence, he was tasked with helping to secure more order in the world God created. Similarly, we can see work as our effort to help bring order to the world God has gifted us.

If we, as followers of Christ, view work as the accumulation of our whole life's efforts — not just those tied to the jobs we’re paid to do — it gives us a perspective that brings privilege and responsibility. “Work,” then, is the effort we put into our relationships to grow and cultivate them. It is the life decisions we make with our families. It is how we steward our finances, our time, our gifts, strengths, and hobbies. We are called to grow and work on our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls. And yes, we also work on the job we are hired for as well. 

So, if we acknowledge that “work” consists of our whole life’s efforts, then our beliefs, attitudes and actions begin to shift. We shift from believing that “work-life balance” is a dichotomy with “work” and “life” as separate endeavors to believing that work is the effort exerted in all aspects of our life.  Our attitudeshifts from being overwhelmed or disappointed by all the demands on our energy to being empowered to invest our energy where it makes the most impact. And our actions willshift from being hesitant, self-protective and self-serving to being characterized by initiative and personal responsibility. We will be fully engaged, and we will witness how it positively impacts ourselves and others.

In viewing work as a whole life endeavor, Ecclesiastes 3 calls us to hold two things in mind. First, that good work (whole life effort) is meant to be good, rewarding and beneficial for us to engage in, and is meant to benefit the world around us. We are entrusted by God to bear his image in our life. As this relates to work, we are called to create order out of chaos and be fruitful in our efforts. And second, that God’s work is eternal, and our work is temporary. This perspective keeps us humble and grounded. It helps guide how we invest our efforts and protects us from wrapping too much of our identity and value in what we accomplish.

The biblical response to “quiet quitting” is humility and enjoyment, knowing we are bearing his image in how we engage with work and seeing the fruits of our labor across all aspects of our life. It calls us to intentionally steward our efforts in our job, at home, with our finances, friendships, families, hobbies, etc.

Our jobs are not our life’s only work — far from it, in fact. But they are an important part of that God-given work — and properly cherishing our work is an essential part of following His call to us. 

Jesse Parrish serves as the manager of programming of WinShape Teams, where he develops programs and resources that equip clients in their journey toward better leading, teaming, and following. Prior to joining WinShape, Jesse served six years as a licensed professional counselor. 

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