Current Events Monday: The “Work Your Wage” Movement
Two relatively newer terms recently emerged in the American job market from social media content creators on TikTok. One term, “quiet quitting,” describes how one works solely at his/her job during defined hours while meeting the minimal required standards of quality. The second term, “work your wage,” refers to one’s rejecting even the minimum standards. In other words, minimum wage equals minimum work. Employers across the country are understandably upset about these trends.
Business Insider magazine addressed the work your wage movement during the month of September, highlighting the reasons why such a movement is going viral among Millennials and Gen-Zers. The top two reasons listed for both quiet quitting and working your wage have to do with preservation of mental health and making room for more family time.
You can read one of the articles from Business Insider’s series here:
What are we to make of these workplace trends from a Christian perspective? When we analyze what the Bible says regarding vocation, it becomes quite clear that God values and expects believers to work as an act of worship. Take, for instance, the following scriptures:
Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18 – “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’”
2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11 – “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”
Ephesians 4:28 – “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10 – “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”
Proverbs 18:9 – “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”
We could argue from these Bible verses that the “quiet quitting” and “work your wage” movements stem from sheer laziness among the majority of those in the contemporary work force, but that argument would be too short-sighted. The wider biblical context about our vocational work also has to do with the Christian ethic of justice. That is, some people may be opting for working their wage because employers expect too much for too little. Just as workers are charged in the Bible to be productive in their vocations, so are employers commanded constantly to pay a fair wage.
We therefore see the prime importance of justice in today’s job environments. But what does this kind of justice look like? It begins with the idea that work is not just some type of moral procedure. It is not something we do simply to “get by.” Work is consequently to be free from demeaning pay. In fact, our vocations should provide a sense of uniqueness and dignity both to the employer and the employee, since we are all created in the image of God. In other words, justice in the vocational sense is that which honors both doing the right thing and balancing the love of God and neighbor.
This kind of justice can be accomplished in three ways. First, we begin with Jesus’ teaching: “Cast the beam out of your own eye before taking the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye.” That is, we ought to ask ourselves: Am I working as unto the Lord? Am I paying my employees a sum that honors their dignity as human beings? Do I have high expectations for the quality of labor and the self-discipline to perform the job well? Do I temper strictness with mercy? Do I work because of my dignity, even though other employees may become increasingly bitter and opposed to work for whatever reason?
Second, an employer/employee moving in the direction of God’s justice will shun things like cynicism and pessimism. Our work was not meant to be a blasé offering because “that’s just the way it is.” We are encouraged here to set our energy to striving towards that which is right in any environment in which we find ourselves—much like Jesus when he stopped Peter from cutting off the soldier’s ear, or the Samaritan who rendered aid when he could have otherwise gone about his business. In Christianity, we can see bold virtue and insistence on human rights come together in the workplace.
Third, we must not forget that we are still human and that a complete justice will not be accomplished until the Lord’s return. That is, not every employee and/or employer is ever going to get fully what they think that they deserve. This fact however should not drive us into a kind of spiritually dead complacency. Bad conditions in our workplaces will thrive if we further deaden ourselves to matters of conscience. Thus, we argue here that quiet quitting and working your wage is not the optimal way to thrive in a vocational environment…but neither is status quo.