Is Going Back to Work Worth the Risk?

The President is fighting to reopen the country and get everyone back to work. Many governors and mayors are heeding his exhortation, but there are governors and mayors who want to keep the work restrictions in place. They argue that a reopening of the country would lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The president argues that keeping people from working will be just as devastating, or worse, than the effects of the virus itself. He predicts that a rise in suicides, drug abuse, and mental health illnesses will occur if we continue the work shutdown; in addition, postponing identification or treatment for patients with critical illness such as cancer increases potential lethality of those diseases. Some governors are proposing that they must keep the work restrictions in place for several more weeks, or even months.

 

I appreciate the desire to keep the public safe as we deal with COVID-19, but I believe there is a danger in prolonging the shutdown on the workplace. During the first couple of weeks of the government mandated shutdown many people saw this as an opportunity for a long-needed vacation, rest, or family time. Many of us enjoyed hours of movies on Netflix, experiencing the outdoors, and extra time with family. However, as the mandatory shutdown progressed from weeks to months, it began to take a toll on the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of everyone. A recent article from Real Clear Health states:

 

Studies have also shown how long-term quarantine is bad for personal health, which will only add further strain to the healthcare system. The tax that quarantines can have on the mind is well-covered. They increase cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and depression, to name a few. After the Great Recession of 2008, researchers even found that every rise of 1 percent in unemployment prompted an increase in the suicide rate by roughly 1 percent.[1]

 

In addition, the Washington Post recently reported:

Federal agencies and experts warn that a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide…. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Last month, roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.[2]

 

As these articles state, many of the health disorders are connected to the anxiety that has arisen as a result of the pandemic. There is fear of contracting the virus, unemployment, social disorder, and more. These are important factors, but I believe there is a significant spiritual factor that should not be overlooked in regards to people facing an extended period of joblessness. Work is not only vital for the economy but for the well-being of every individual, and there is a biblical and spiritual reason for this reality.

 

Work and the Image of God

 

There is a connection between work and the image of God. We are designed by God for meaningful work. It is part of the image of God created in us. God created man to love Him, worship Him, and rule over and care for God’s creation. Genesis 1:26 states:

 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

 

The Hebrew word “dominion” (radah), means to rule over, dominate, direct, lead, control, subdue, i.e., manage or govern an entity, people or government with considerable or forceful authority.[3] Man was created to use his knowledge, skill, and strength to bring creation under his rulership.

 

Genesis 2:15 states, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  The Hebrew word for “work” (abad), means to labor, to expend considerable energy and intensity in a task or function. [4]  When God created Adam, He created Adam to labor with great enthusiasm and energy. Adam did not spend his days simply lying on a hammock, swimming in the lake and playing with the animals. Adam was given responsibility to work and care for the garden. This was a positive way to exercise his mind, energy and strength, as he shared a part in God’s stewardship over creation. Men are created by God to spend their days working for the glory of God. Work is not a curse but a blessing and part of the image of God in every man. Work provides a means to fulfill a meaningful purpose for our time on earth. God’s people were to be an industrious people.

 

The New Testament also commends industriousness and repeatedly warns against idleness. Inactivity or laziness is not to be a part of the lifestyle of a disciple of Christ.

 

  • Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
  • If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  • 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)

 

Working and providing for your family is the duty of every disciple of Christ. Even in the eternal state, we will not be idle but serving the Lord.

 

For this reason, unemployment can be devasting for especially for a man. Medical research shows that men who retire without a plan to continue in some kind of meaningful endeavor have a shorter life expectancy. Thus, work is not a result of the fall but part of the created design for all men.  A man’s career can become his idol, and he must be aware when this happens.

 

Eve was created as a “helper” for Adam. The word “helper” (ʿē·zěr) means one who assists and serves another with what is needed. Eve was created to assist Adam and share in his mission to steward over God’s earth. With Eve at his side, Adam is given the responsibility to provide, protect, and lead his family. For this reason, unemployment is often devastating to the entire family.

 

My wife has been a tremendous asset in helping me fulfill my calling from God. God has called her to the medical field and together we fulfill God’s mission for us. Her schedule allows her to share in my work, and my ministry is greatly enhanced with her participation.

 

Government assistance and bailouts are helpful while we are in a period of mandated quarantine. However, we are paying the price as a society as the government extends the lockdown on many businesses. We are seeing an increase in mental illnesses at this time, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and marital conflict. Not all of these increases are due only to unemployment, but I believe that so many people not working is a significant contributing factor that cannot be underestimated. I applaud and join with those who are petitioning our government to allow us to return to work. It is uplifting to see so many wanting to get back to work.

 

While We Wait to Work

 

What shall we do while we wait for the government restrictions to end? Since work is a part of our design, I believe there are ways we can be productive when it comes to men and work. First, we can volunteer our time to a worthwhile cause. This is a great opportunity to serve at our church, social service organizations, and neighbors in need. Second, we can build our homes. Take the opportunity by building up your relationships by spending time and serving our immediate family, extended family, and spiritual family network. Third, we can prepare to return to work. For some it may mean preparing for a new career. We can prepare by studying, taking courses, and learning new skills. Fourth, we can petition our government leaders to lift the work restrictions and allow us to return to work following safety guidelines.

 

During this time as we await the lifting of the government quarantine, many of us are prohibited from going to work. However, we are not prohibited from engaging in meaningful activities and tasks while we wait to return to our offices and work places. Is going back to work worth the risk? I believe it is, and I believe we can do it safely exercising common sense and following safety guidelines.

 

 

© Copyright Evidence and Answers, May 28, 2020

[1] https://www.realclearhealth.com/articles/2020/03/27/would_a_long-term_covid-19_shutdown_be_detrimental_to_public_health_111006.html

 

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/04/mental-health-coronavirus/

 

[3] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

 

[4] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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