7. Encourage them to learn to gratefully and humbly receive from others even if it is better to give.
When Paul gave his closing charge to the elders in Ephesus he said, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).
One of the hidden blessings of unemployment is that it provides a unique opportunity to see how the Lord can and does use others to provide for our needs. This was certainly true in the life of the early church. Acts 4:34 testifies, “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales.” Our present economic crisis should be moving believers in local churches toward more faithful imitation of this material recognition of their familial bonds with brothers and sisters in the church. And the receiving of help from others may be a totally new experience for the unemployed person—a wonderful lesson in learning humility and letting the body of Christ function as God designed it.
No matter how God provides, either through work, or the gifts of others, it is crucial that we always recognize Him as the ultimate source of all good things (James 1:17).
8. Encourage them to view God as the faithful Provider who is “hidden” in all legitimate vocations.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1). James 1:17 reminds us that “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” In our day of easy cash, instant credit, and an overabundance of material goods, it is easy to forget where it all came from in the first place. The leaders of the Protestant Reformation consistently reminded believers to remember that God is “hidden” in all of our gracious provisions and in the employments through which those provisions come.
In his book, God At Work, Gene Edward Veith writes,
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, observed Luther, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared the meal. We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers, and every other player in the nation’s economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bagel.
Before you ate, you probably gave thanks to God for your food, as is fitting. He is caring for your physical needs, as with every other kind of need you have, preserving your life through His gifts. ‘He provides food for those who fear him’ (Psalm 111:5); also to those who do not fear Him, ‘to all flesh’ (136:25). And He does so by using other human beings. It is still God who is responsible for giving us our daily bread. Though He could give it to us directly, by a miraculous provision, as He once did for the children of Israel when He fed them daily with manna, God has chosen to work through human beings, who, in their different capacities and according to their different talents, serve each other. This is the doctrine of vocation.
A revival of this doctrine of vocation is desperately needed in our day.
9. Encourage them by praying with them.
Let us pray for those who are unemployed against their own will. Let us pray for a God-focused perspective to dominate their thinking and fill their hearts with faith, obedience, peace, hope, and trust in the God who is faithful (Ps. 37:25). But more than praying for the unemployed people in your church let me encourage you to pull one of them aside before or after your next church meeting and pray with them. Praying with the weary believer allows him or her to feed off your faith, to get strength from your confidence in the Lord. Who knows? It may be a few months from now that you will need them to do the same for you.