A recent Atlantic article entitled, “The Slacker Trap“described the new lifestyle choice of an emerging generation of Japanese youth who have been impacted by Japan’s extended recession, economic stagnation and job insecurity. “Freeters” as they are called in Japan are mainly younger college graduates who are holding only temporary or part time jobs and are having a tough time making ends meet, let alone becoming more productive adult members of Japanese society.
Ethan Devine, the writer of the article paints a compelling picture of what chronic job instability and underemployment for Japan’s emerging generation might very well mean for the future well being of a nation. While in the 1980′s the world often looked to Japan for its economic vitality and innovation, Devine wants us to look to Japan as America’s canary in a coal mine, an early warning signal of the trouble that lies ahead for our nation, unless we take serious our decline in economic vitality and job creation.
Devine makes this salient point, “Japan’s example raises the stakes for America as it struggles to contain the Great Recession’s damage. Even if it rains jobs tomorrow, America’s current bout of high employment is already the longest in its postwar history. And youth employment is twice the national average.” So how should the Gospel-centered church committed to the common good respond to an economically displaced emerging generation that is facing a very challenging job market?
First, we need to teach a new generation that integral to the life they long to live, the life they were designed to live is work. Slothfulness is not an option. Slacking is not only condemned in Holy Scripture, it is a violation of our creation design and the created order of things. As embodied spirits, each of us was created with work in mind. We were designed with hands and feet for a purpose. To flourish as a human being is to work; and to work is to contribute to God’s good world.
Secondly, we need to remind a new generation that part of a fallen world is a fallen workplace and a fallen economic system. Economic life is always a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly. In our time, rapid globalization and massive technological changes are radically changing human work and the workplace, so dilligence, creativity, innovation and continually learning new skills that add value to economic exchange are essential components of a lifestyle of lifetime learning.
Thirdly, the church needs to increasingly be a place and people committed to stewarding their economic vocational power for the common good. Knowing that work matters and that human flourishing includes economic flourishing, the church must increasingly step up to the plate and confront systemic economic injustices, but also encourage risk taking entreprenuership. How might an older generation with more economic experience and vocational power share their work wisdom and nurture wealth creation with an emerging generation? How might the common good be enhanced if many of the retiring boomers rather than sliding into a self-indulgent rhythm of endless games of their favorite play, would intentionally carve out time and become the mentors and economic tail wind for the emerging generation to begin businesses and companies that will produce new jobs and economic flourishing?
Economics matter to God and economics ought to matter to us. Economic vitality is an important component of human flourishing. The Slacker Trap is not only an insightful article, it is also an open invitation to the church to move from the margins to the mainstream of cultural renewal. For such a time as this….