As they look to their own future and that of their children, many in the lower class see their prospects dimming. About three-quarters (77%) say it’s harder now to get ahead than it was 10 years ago. Only half (51%) say that hard work brings success, a view expressed by overwhelming majorities of those in the middle (67%) and upper classes (71%). -Pew Research
A large part of America now thinks of itself as “lower class,” in terms of economic success. And a large part of those people who classify themselves as “lower class,” about half say they believe hard work has anything to do with their situation, either way.
Why should this be surprising? There are, in our culture, three publicly talked about ways to become wealthy. The first is to become a “star,” having people throw money at you because of your body, your talent, or your ability to generate headlines. The second is through “rigging the system,” by using the government against other people so you can get ahead. The third is through politics, which is just a combination of the first two.
How many times does anyone in our media or political world celebrate becoming “wealthy” through hard work? Through starting a business? Through years of sacrifice and saving? Are there any television shows about people who move from a life of work to the middle class simply by taking a series of jobs and working at them the best they can? How often is the corporate environment shown as anything other than stupid, or discouraging, or demeaning?
The answer to all the questions above is “never.”
Because we have lost our Christian worldview, that’s why. Christianity is, fundamentally, a religion that says, “you get to heaven on grace, but the conditions in this life, and your rewards in the next, are all based on your choices and your work.” Christianity doesn’t deny this world is fallen, but this falleness isn’t met with fatalism.
Christianity meets falleness with hard work and a good attitude, rather than despair. Humanism is a worldview of despair –we can’t beat the world, so best just to slink back into our caves and eek out the most feeble living we can. Socialism and communism are economic systems of despair –not everyone can be rich, so let’s just make everyone equally poor, and equally unhappy.
So the next time you hear someone say, “you only get rich through luck,” tell them they’re wrong. When you hear a politician say, “hard work never made anyone wealthy,” vote them out of office (for instance, like Obama). The next time you hear someone say, “I don’t know why I’m working, it won’t make any difference,” remind them that work is honorable, even if the rewards seem slight –and that the rewards are often delayed in this life, sometimes to the point of being delayed right into the next life.
We need to return to an ethic that says wealth is built, rather than found, and that there’s nothing wrong with hard work in the pursuit of building a better life. We need to return to a Christian worldview.