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Frugalists start to live life

As millions of young people are quitting their jobs to change their lifestyles, Christians engaged in workplace discipleship are reminding that "work done for God is an act of worship".

AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano BARCELONA 02 DE FEBRERO DE 2022 15:51 h
In the US, a quarter of the workforce under the age of 34 is out of the market. / Photo: [link]Bailey Mahon[/link], Unsplash CC0.

In recent weeks, many in the general media have published stories of young adults who have decided to leave stable jobs with a guaranteed salary to live a different lifestyle, using their savings and dedicating their time to learning a new language, taking painting classes or growing their own vegetables, among other examples.



The phenomenon has, above all, an American accent. In the United States alone, in August 2021, 4.3 million young workers (aged 20-34) quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They were joined by 3.9 million in June and another 3.9 million in July. By September, the administration estimated that a quarter of the youth labour force could not be counted as a workforce (about 14 million people). In November 2021, another 4.5 million workers under the age of 34 resigned.



What many have called the 'Great Resignation', a reference to the concept attributed to Texas A&M University Mays Business School professor Anthony Klotz, is actually an expression of frugalism: the ideal of developing a sober but optimal lifestyle that allows one to live with access to basic comforts but without extravagance and with financial independence. "If young professionals used to have to put up with everything, this generation dares to consider new horizons. Perhaps it may also be due to a lower tolerance of frustration, which leads them to put up less with the pressures of complicated workplaces", explains Jaume Llenas, the national coordinator of the Spanish Graduate Bible Groups (GBG) and member of the National Committee of the Lausanne Movement in Spain.



 



The 'Great Resignation' in Europe?



Looking at his country of residence, Llenas is not so sure. "Our young people do not consider leaving the labour market so easily to embark on personal adventures or to set up on their own", he observes. However, one can recognise some similarities with the American landscape. "There are professions such as nursing, medicine and even the hotel industry, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find professionals", he stresses.


[destacate]"Previous generations spoke of the culture of effort. The young are now are frustrated when they do not receive the rewards of their training"[/destacate]"I was recently talking to a psychologist who works for a large hospital group and who is considering the same horizon as the 'zylenials' in the United States, setting up on her own because the working conditions are very unfavourable. Among the factors contributing to this phenomenon are working conditions that are close to exploitation, the lack of real prospects for promotion and poor treatment by employers or immediate bosses".



For the national coordinator of the Biblical Student Groups (GBE) and president of Young Alliance (a working group of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance), Jonatan Espinosa, the scenario is fuelled by "idealised expectations" that have not been fulfilled. "Many young people in this age group have suffered the reality of over-training. They are in jobs far below their academic qualifications. Previous generations instilled in them the importance of the culture of effort, and they are frustrated when they do not receive the rewards of their training", he points out. "To this must be added that this is a generation where maturity in different areas of life has come later, that is transferred to the workplace. I perceive that this is a generation that is not being able to see the consequences of their mistakes as opportunities, but inmediately transforming theose mistakes into failures".



 



'Helicopter parents' and identity based on performance



Beyond images of young people riding their Vespas through the streets of Rome to their Italian lessons, or urbanites becoming farmers on a mountain farm, there are sociological elements to consider. "Young people have developed a vision of their work linked to their identity as individuals," Espinosa warns. "They define themselves according to the title or description of their work. That is why many are in a constant desire to climb the ladder, to improve, or to have a better title or position, because that way they will feel better about themselves, because they have completely linked what they do, the occupation in the job, with who they are, their identity," he says.



Llenas agrees that "an important part of the problem is educational and of expectations in life". "We are dealing with a generation that has been brought up in a culture of excessive self-esteem", he says, referring to the term boosterism, described by British psychiatrist Glynn Harrison in his book The Big Ego Trip.



[destacate]"All work, however good and pleasant, has thorns and thistles, we have to learn to live in this tension"[/destacate]"We have inflated the ego of a generation where many children have received medals for coming last. We live in an era where 'helicopter parents' have been flying over their child's life to spare them any kind of trouble. When they get to the real world, where no one gives medals for coming last, the shock is very significant. Facing a competitive working life, after that kind of education, becomes difficult", he says.


"It is obvious that work has undergone enormous transformations due to the application of ICT [Information and Communication Technologies], and this all will continue to change at an even faster pace", says Llenas. "But to be able to cope with this world of incessant change, you need not only a set of technical skills, but also a set of attitudes. What will make our work fruitful and meaningful will be the management of our character".



 



What does the biblical worldview have to say about the 'Great Resignation'?



Apart from the sociological analysis, the phenomenon of frugalism and the 'Great Resignation' also requires consideration at the axiological level. In this sense, the worldview model into which the idea of work fits is essential to understand the current scenario and to come up with a realistic response. "The Bible offers a completely radical view of identity. It wants you to understand that you are not what you do, but what you are. And not what you are in a distorted view of 'I', but what you are in someone, and that someone is Christ. Knowing that we are not what we do, but that we are who God says we are, is tremendously liberating and allows you to live in all areas of life, even at work, with hope and freedom", Espinosa says.



For Llenas, that character formation has to do with "what the Holy Spirit is trying to produce in the life of the believer". "The Bible shows us that we work in a fallen world. This fallen world will make us toil and produce not just pleasant products and services, but 'thorns and thistles'. All work, however good and pleasant, has thorns and thistles. It has the potential to destroy the worker himself. All work has this tension between its goodness as a way of bringing prosperity to the planet, fulfilment to the worker and glory to God, and on the other hand it has an aspect of emptiness and self-destruction. We have to learn to live in this tension. Maintaining the right balance between these two poles allows us to have work that we face realistically and with enthusiasm. Our work done for God can become an act of worship, the best way to bring glory to God", stresses Llenas.



[destacate]"The worst problem is that discepliship is non-existent for more than 90 per cent of Christians, generation after generation" [/destacate]The more the character of Christ is formed in us, the better prepared we will be to face the difficulties of our workplaces. In the New Testament, Paul speaks several times to the slaves, who worked under a very radical regime of exploitation. The emphasis in every message he gives to the slaves is to work for the Lord. That Jesus is their only Lord, that they do not have a divided loyalty between the human owner and the Lord. This builds character and produces an excellent kind of work, which brings glory to God", he adds.



To this end, he believes it is "urgent" that "churches make disciples for every sphere of life". "The worst problem with the ministry of the worker is that it is non-existent for more than 90 per cent of Christians, generation after generation. It cannot be that the church is not training workers for the place where they are going to spend most of the waking time of their lives and where they are going to be in natural contact with the greatest number of non-Christians. If there is one place we need to prepare our church members for, it is the workplace", says Llenas, who underlines that the GBG movement is focused on supporting the church in this area and that they have different resources open to the public.



Espinosa speaks of a "theology of work" and stresses the need, "as churches and Christians", to deepen the biblical message on working life. "God wants to use us as restorers of a broken world, where there is no separation between the sacred and the secular, where there is no separation between what I do in my job and my Christian faith", he emphasises.



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