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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its long-awaited report on the state of employment in September. Stock traders hoped a weaker-than-expected report would pivot the Fed with its plans to aggressively fight inflation by raising interest rates and reducing liquidity (via balance sheet reductions). Traders were disappointed with the report.
Total non-farm payrolls increased by 263,000 (250,000 expected, 315,000 previously). Private non-agricultural payroll increased by 288,000 (265,000 expected, 275,000 previously). The unemployment rate surprisingly fell from 3.7% to 3.5%. The higher jobs numbers and unemployment rate provide little justification for the Fed to change its inflation-fighting policies, implying that a harder landing (deeper recession) is more likely.
A worrying estimate from the report was the unexpected drop in voter turnout. The activity rate indicates the percentage of the working-age population that is part of the labor force (working or looking for work). Turnout fell from 62.4% to 62.3% in September, from a pre-COVID Trump high of 63.4%. Pensions, more generous social safety nets (food stamps, social assistance, stimulus payments, improved unemployment benefits) and falling inflation-adjusted real wages explain the lower participation rate.
The workforce currently appears to be a less motivated workforce. Output per hour is a major measure responsible for wages, economic growth, and long-term living standards in the United States. It is currently at its lowest in over 40 years. Gallup suggests that the “silent shutdown” accounts for at least 50% of the American workforce. Silent quitting is defined as workers choosing to simply live up to their job descriptions and not go beyond their job responsibilities.
By these measures, many members of the American workforce appear to choose not to participate, either by dropping out of the workforce, being less productive, or quietly quitting. Labor engagement and productivity are much more complicated than the few metrics we’ve discussed, but the long-term implications are still inconvenient.
When the Lord taught the disciples how to pray, He specifically instructed them to pray for the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and for the Father’s kingdom to come. We have the responsibility not only to pray, but to do all in our power to demonstrate the will of the Father until the Kingdom is here in its fullness.
“Pray therefore thus: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’” (Matthew 6:9-10, NASB 2020).
The terms “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are often used interchangeably in the Bible, especially in Matthew which was written for a Jewish audience. For the purposes of this article, the Kingdom of Heaven is defined as the place of the throne of God where the Father and Jesus now dwell. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom for now that impacts the physical world, will be a physical kingdom for the millennium, and will eventually be presented to the Father where the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven will merge.
Are too many Christians choosing to limit their present participation in the kingdom of God? Are there too many Christians, who have been fully saved by grace, waiting to be either called home or raptured? Are there too many people in the body of Christ who have believed the lie that they don’t have the power, training or gifts to make a difference?
Participating in the kingdom of God involves more than going to church for an hour on Sunday. As a business owner, manager, or employee, we have the opportunity to model Christ even if we cannot speak explicitly of our faith in our jobs. We can encourage the discouraged, be peaceful when everyone is stressed, go the extra mile when everyone is slipping away, be compassionate when everyone is judgmental, be optimistic when everyone is pessimistic, demonstrate standards highest ethics when everyone takes ethical turns and be optimistic instead of pessimistic.
Whether we are called to business, education, government, medicine, entertainment, media, the pulpit, our homes, or a host of other callings, we can make a difference. We are children of God, have within us the Spirit of the Most High God and the sure promises of the word. We have to do our best because of who we represent. We cannot be lazy, for example, and expect our colleagues to respect our God.
By following God, we can also expect his favor. Joseph was a slave in Egypt, but his owner recognized that God was with him, and the Lord made him prosper in everything he did, so he put him in charge of all his possessions. As a prisoner, the warden recognized that God was with Joseph, that the Lord was prospering him, and he charged him with all the other prisoners. Pharaoh recognized that God was with him because of his supernatural interpretation of dreams, and he put Joseph in charge of Egypt. (See Genesis 39-41.)
A similar pattern was followed by Daniel. He and his three friends, as slaves, decided to follow God’s dietary requirements. They prospered, were favored and entered the king’s court.
Thanks to the supernatural interpretation of dreams, Daniel was promoted and he saw that his friends were also promoted. Other leaders were jealous of Daniel and tried to find grounds to accuse him, but none could be found.
The kingdom of God is justice, peace, joy and power (Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20). We are told that everything will be provided for us if we first seek his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Let’s decide to participate in the kingdom of God now.
James R. Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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