This article from Monday’s edition of The New York Times is a sign of deep cultural distress — of men without any sense of shame for not working. In “Men Not Working, And Not Wanting Just Any Job,” reporters Louis Uchitelle and David Leonhardt tell an amazing story:
Alan Beggerow has stopped looking for work. Laid off as a steelworker at 48, he taught math for a while at a community college. But when that ended, he could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demeaning nor underpaid.
So instead of heading to work, Mr. Beggerow, now 53, fills his days with diversions: playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, writing unpublished Western potboilers in the Louis L’Amour style — all activities once relegated to spare time. He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m.
“I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me,” he said. To make ends meet, he has tapped the equity in his home through a $30,000 second mortgage, and he is drawing down the family’s savings, at the rate of $7,500 a year. About $60,000 is left. His wife’s income helps them scrape by. “If things really get tight,” Mr. Beggerow said, “I might have to take a low-wage job, but I don’t want to do that.”
Millions of men like Mr. Beggerow — men in the prime of their lives, between 30 and 55 — have dropped out of regular work. They are turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified, even as an expanding economy offers opportunities to work.
The very fact that The New York Times finds this phenomenon to be of front-page interest tells us something. Such complacency — matched to an idea that many jobs are just beneath consideration — flies in the face of our cultural work ethic, such as it is.
For the Christian, of course, the issue is far deeper. We understand that men were made for work, and that a man’s responsibility is to care and provide for his wife and family.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
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]
Thus, the Christian worldview sees work as a man’s assignment — and as a Gospel issue. One who fails in this responsibility by complacency and sloth does injury to the Gospel and the cause of Christ.
Manhood and masculinity are in crisis, but those at the center of the crisis seem rather unconcerned. Or, at least not concerned to the point that they would take a job they consider beneath them.