This explains why people who stop working for one reason or another often feel deep loss and disorientation. Those who become disabled and leave the workforce often struggle with depression. Many people who eagerly anticipate retirement begin to feel a lack of meaning in life shortly after they leave their jobs. A sense of purposelessness can strike devoted homemakers when their children grow up and leave the house. A life without work can look so attractive from a distance, in the midst of busyness and stress, but the reality turns out to be hollow.
The world has had to confront these realities in disquieting ways during the past few years as COVID-19 and government restrictions disrupted economic life. Many jobs disappeared, and others became unusually dangerous and stressful. Government checks and online streaming services proved to be poor substitutes for productive vocations. It’s little coincidence that mental health problems and drug abuse have risen dramatically. We now hear, even after the lifting of most pandemic restrictions, that the overall workforce participation rate hasn’t recovered. Especially troubling is that many prime working-age males seem to have dropped out of the workforce altogether.
These aren’t just economic or public policy issues but matters that get to the core of our human existence. God commanded us to work because He gave us a nature that longs to work. When people won’t or can’t labor, the collateral damage is bound to be great.
sex and gender
When Christians reflect on their growing alienation from the cultural mainstream in Western societies, issues of sex and gender are rarely far from their minds. Sometimes Christians may wonder whether upholding traditional views is really worth all the ridicule and marginalization that comes with it. But sex and gender really are important, and one of the primary reasons is that human nature is at stake. The recent sex and gender revolution is both rebellion against God’s law and a grand denial of reality—the reality of the way God created us.
“From the beginning,” Jesus once noted, God “made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4). Jesus said this when introducing His most extensive teaching about marriage recorded in the Gospels (19:4–12; see Mark 10:1–12). He provided more than just an Old Testament proof-text for the permanence of marriage and immorality of divorce under most circumstances. He also indicated that God’s law for sex and marriage is grounded in the creation order. God expects marriages to be lasting, faithful, procreative, and heterosexual because of the way He made us. The first thing Scripture tells us about ourselves is that God created us in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). The second thing it says is that we image bearers are male and female (v. 27). All human beings are image bearers, yet there are two (and only two) ways to be an image bearer: as a man or as a woman. This fundamental distinction shapes our lives in all sorts of ways, both obvious and mysterious, but Genesis 2 highlights perhaps the most important way: God created the woman in a way that was perfectly “fit” (2:18) for the man so that they could be joined in marriage, a permanent and sexually fruitful “one flesh” relationship (vv. 22–24). Only a relationship of one male and one female could possibly be this.
Such considerations are crucial to emphasize when training the next generation. Our children and young adults face great pressure to reject or at least relax the church’s teaching about sex. How important it is for them to know that God hasn’t imposed rigid rules on us to suppress our desires and keep us miserable. Instead, His law on sexuality shows us how to be most truly human. It describes the one way that we can express our sexual desires without the guilt, regret, and resentment that other ways often bring. Eating too much, drinking too much, and outbursts of anger can feel exhilarating, but they end up making the person (and often others) feel miserable. It’s no different with sex and gender. To choose or create one’s own gender may give a temporarily satisfying sense of power and freedom. To indulge sexual desires outside a marriage relationship may provide momentary pleasure. But such things can never satisfy, since they fight against our human nature that we can’t actually change.
Race obviously joins sex and gender among the most contentious issues in contemporary culture. In this case, however, Christians don’t find themselves so out of sync with the cultural mainstream, at least in general. When our broader culture proclaims its opposition to racism, Christians can gladly join, and they can also express deep regret for the church’s failings in this regard. Yet race is another moral issue that is deeply connected to human nature. Reflecting on it through a Christian anthropological lens promises to bring additional insight.
At one level, Christian anthropology provides a rather clear and obvious objection to racism: God created every human being in His image and likeness. To despise another person for the color of his skin or to subjugate a fellow human because of her ancestry is to ignore this profound fact of our existence and to insult the One whose image they bear. However cleverly rationalized, racism can never escape this devastating objection. Many non-Christians condemn racism on the grounds of universal human dignity, but Christians have the most profound reasons for doing so.