Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 2, 2008

Young Men and Work: “Failure to Launch”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-16 is a passage used by some fundamentalists to provide an exegetical basis for the practice of “secondary separation.”  One of the more direct and seemingly mundane applications of the passage, however, relates to the necessity of working to support oneself as God gives the ability to do so: “If a man will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thess 3:10).  Those who are able to work must not refuse to work, even if they have the opportunity to be supported by well-meaning believers.  There are a number of ways to nuance this point (e.g., what about those who are disabled?  Missionaries supported by churches?  Independently wealthy?), but the basic teaching is clear.
The necessity for instructing our young people in the area of their work ethic was driven home to me as I heard an interview on NPR with Leonard Sax.  The discussion centered around his recent book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.  Sax alluded to the following passage in his book, from a chapter entitled “Failure to Launch”:
A team of reporters for the New York Times recently documented a growing trend among young and middle-aged men throughout the United States: more and more able-bodied men are out of work and are not even looking for work.  These men aren’t included in the unemployment statistics because they’ve given up looking for a job.  They may be from middle-class families, most of them are white, and many have some college education.  Their ranks are growing rapidly.  In Michigan, 18 percent of able-bodied men between the ages of thirty and fifty-four — almost one man in five — are not working and not looking for work.  In West Virginia, that figure is now up to 24 percent, almost one man in four.  Forty years ago, in the same age group, only about one able-bodied man in twenty was unemployed and not looking for work.  Today, nationwide, it’s about one man in seven.  Most of these men could find work if they had to, according to the New York Times investigative team.  But these men “have decided they prefer the alternative [i.e., not working].  It is a significant cultural shift from three decades ago. . . . [These men are] in the prime of their lives [but] have dropped out of regular work.  They are turning down jobs they think beneath them . . . even as an expanding economy offers opportunities to work.”  Instead, they live off the income of their wives or families, or off their own savings. (pp. 126-27)


  1. I wonder if part of the problem is our current habit (not you & I particularly, but the culture’s) of buying a lot more house and stuff than we need. As a result, you get a generation of children whose every desire has been taken care of–what motivation do they have to get out there and earn something?

    This is, of course, my excuse for NOT getting my children more 18″ dolls for Christmas! :^)

  2. I notice Al Mohler has just noted this book on his blog:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: