How To Prepare For “Unemployment”?

28 10 2008

This week’s Question of the Week is:

The “real” rate of unemployment in America is around 15%. Based on the current economic climate, that’s likely to increase. Even in good times, people find themselves out of work from time to time. How do we prepare for that, both as individuals needing to provide for our own families, and as churches that want to help others provide for their families?

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7 responses

29 10 2008
Boyd

Preparing for unemployment is a concept that we should include in our multi generational outlook. Putting it another way, we must both learn how and teach our children how to work. American culture was once far more agrarian and as a consequence, boys were taught many things by their fathers. In an age of specialization, many dad’s go off to stuff envelopes for Citibank during the week and heads out to the golf course on Saturday while his sons play X-box. Consequently, sons are not given opportunity to work and do not learn even the most basic principles of laboring. Fathers are taught to do only one thing, many of these things which are of little intrinsic worth during difficult times.

Growing up in a home where my dad worked as carpenter and operated a small hobby farm, we were taught first how to work and were expected to learn many things. By the time I was a teenager, I was working with my dad every day and during slow times, doing odd jobs for various neighbors such as mowing hay, landscaping, fence building, cleaning pens, among other things. Teach your children how to work and to accept the fact that some jobs are brutal and unpleasant.

I think another aspect to this is being neighborly and establishing local relationships and contacts. By learning who your neighbors are and striving to get to know them, perhaps there would be times in which we could use these relationships as a means for finding employment, whether it be helping some one out for a day or getting a lead on a job.

Another thing that comes to my mind regarding unemployment is learning to avoid debt. This is a touchy issue though, for many of us are in debt and it might be very difficult for us to conceive of a possibility of eliminating our debts. I’ve often wondered about our willingness as a whole to tackle debt. The Scriptures teach that we are not to boast of tomorrow, yet every time we sign the dotted line, we presume that we will be always working and capable of honoring our pledge to repay. It seems obvious that if unemployment comes our way, the smaller our monthly obligations the better off we will be.

I think having some savings is crucial in thinking of unemployment. I heard once that a household should at least have a couple months worth of cash on hand to help cover expenses should one be out of work. This might be something that it is difficult to do, so starting to stash $100 every now and then for a future problem might be a good idea.

Our church, which is relatively small, tries to keep up a benevolent fund from which we can assist people. We often will purchase supplies and groceries for folks who are struggling, each family chipping in with a sack full of things. Here again the issue of debt comes into play. I have observed that so many men in the church are strapped to personal debts and thus financial obligations that even the most generous men often have little to work with. Addressing this situation requires a major relook at how we spend. John Piper once remarked that God increased our standard of living so that we might increase our standard of giving. Sadly, every time we see an increase in pay it seems as if our personal budgets goes up by the same amount!

29 10 2008
Scott

Those are some great points Boyd. I think we all need to keep our budgets small enough that becoming unemployed is not such scary thing to think about. If your used to spending huge sums of money every month, losing your job or business can be a crippling experience. The past year has been pretty lean with our business and we have finally gotten to the point where we can live off $500 a month. We are not satisfied with that and are always looking for more fat to trim. This is helpful in that I can make enough to keep the household running by taking on a part time job if comes to that point.

Your comments on work brought to mind a good story from last week. We have a huge composted manure pile that the local folks can haul away for their gardens. Its free, all you have to do is come and get it. I’ve seen families come all summer and fall hauling away tons of the black gold. Most of them are first time gardeners, and it was treat to watch them working together, moms, dads, sons and daughters. The other day a guy stopped and asked if he could get some manure. We said sure, the piles over there. The guy explained that HE could not do such work and he paid his hired men to much money to have THEM do such work. Then he said that he didn’t live far and we could load some up and deliver it because we didn’t have anything better to do (poor-stupid-dirt farmers that we are). We said it was free and self serve, take it or leave it we didn’t care. Now if the guy was not such an elitist snob I would have helped him. There are a couple of old guys that come and I always go out and help them out, but this guy was was very rude to my Mother and I didn’t feel like rewarding his snottyness. The guy sent HIS MEN, the highly paid ones, out 3 times to pitch it into a little trailer. It took well over an hour each time for these lazy rats to pitch about one wheelbarrow load onto the cart and haul it away. They huffed and puffed and sat and smoked and complained the whole time. My 4 and 6 year old could have filled the cart in less time! We live in society that has forgot how to work and I fear some people are going to be very cross and angry if they ever have to work hard for their money.

1 11 2008
Christopher

Thank you Boyd and Scott. Those are great things to consider!

I think of how the Bible talks about those the presume to make a certian amount of money:

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (James 4:13-17)

That’s probably a good description of how most of us live and view our paychecks. We presume they’ll always come, and even worse, that they’ll always get bigger. And we presume that the stock market will always go up. And that our home values will always go up.

Those are risky presumptions. Because of them, we put ourselves into debt. We don’t save as much as we should. We spend nearly everything we make, or in some cases more than we make.

Additionally, we presume that the modern distribution network will always be there to magically make food, ready-to-eat, appear on the grocery store shelves every day. When in reality, more than 90 percent of the world is literally 9 meals from starvation and riots. And this presumption leads us to not worry about actually knowing how to produce any food (or much of anything, for that matter), and becoming extremely dependent on our daily wage to always be able to procure our daily bread. Thus the majority of the world, even the church, is generally 2 weeks away from being on the charity roll or the government dole.

So as far as how we should prepare for unemployment, we need to change the way we live and stop presuming upon the future. We need to scale back our spending, get out of debt and stay there, and start saving. Likely, we’ll need to make small steps to begin with, but we need to make them!

After that, we need to develop a more general skill-set, and become less specialized and less dependent upon the global hive for our daily needs. For if we don’t, then when God judges the world for its financial and general disobedience, then we will suffer right along with the world. We have to disentangle ourselves from it.

1 11 2008
Christopher

So how should churches be tackling this problem?

Are the elders correcting their flocks?

Are the deacons helping people sort out their finances when they need help?

Are the deacons teaching the church how to prepare, and setting up “deacon’s pantries” and charity funds? Coordinating relief efforts – or at least getting ready to do that?

1 11 2008
Rob

Thanks for ‘blog-rolling’ me. I have reciprocated, your work here is crucial and important, and I am very glad you are undergoing this mission of love.

One thing I hope I address is that this is a POSITIVE thing. The Church (universally of course) has always GROWN in such times. It also allows the tares to be seperated from the wheat, and we should never be afraid of what our Father is doing on the earth, above the earth and underneath the earth.

In addition, I am discovering that preparedness requires at minimal, the whole families participation. As the father of a modernist household, I am struggling to make this effort very real. To many this may seem like ‘business as usual’, but Christians should not take this so lightly. This same thing happened in Greece, Rome and countless other nations that professed Christianity, so why should the United States be different?

If I might add an additional word of warning, in the future as those of us who have prepared, begin to enter the market of buying and selling, (grain, salt, etc, etc) be sure to be of good moral conduct and do not tinker with the scales. There are very serious warnings for those who do. Be fair, righteous and just, as it is written, ‘A righteous man swears to his own hurt, and changeth not.’.

Peace be with you, or as they say in the Arabic tongue, “As-Salamu Alaykum”, we may need to get familiar with that language.

3 11 2008
Christopher

Thank you, Rob! I agree 100% about the idea of looking at these things as positive things.

And you’re very right about the need for whole-family participation. That’s crucial.

3 11 2008
Christopher

Another question relating to what Christians should be doing corporately:

What things did God tell his people to do that address this question?

(A couple thoughts – the “poor tithe”, not gleaning corners of fields, giving, lending, planting gardens, having children…)

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