A few weeks ago, I learned of an interesting book by Rebecca Ryan titled, Live First, Work Second. The title intrigued me, and when I began looking into it and it didn’t take long to stumble across the premise of the book. It describes a generational shift that has happened in how Americans think about work. In short:
“Three out of four Americans under the age of 28 said a cool city is more important than a good job.”
That’s a significant insight! After reading it, I guess I don’t know young adults as well as I thought because this idea had never occurred to me before. But since reading more on the subject and conducting random straw polls in small gatherings of young people, I see this mindset alive and well among many of the young adults I work with and minister to.
Ryan continues, “The work/life calculus for the next generation had shifted. Their parents may have followed a job, a promotion or corporate marching orders. But the next generation was following their bliss, choosing cool cities and then finding work” (emphasis added).
What does this say about today’s young professionals and college students who are preparing for adulthood by figuring out where they want to live and then finding work once they get there? It tells me that to them, the job isn’t as important as the life.
Wow! It almost shocks me to say that this is a revelation. Shouldn’t it have always been that way?!?
Yes, if we have our priorities right, work should come after life, and yet, when Americans entering the workforce embrace a Live First, Work Second mindset, it’s a cultural shift so big that it may very well affect the economic geography of our country (with even more people flocking to the coasts and large cities) and threaten the economies of entire states that can’t help the fact that they don’t appear to outsiders as fun and exciting places to live.
This trend is changing the way employers try to lure and retain the most promising talent. Ever heard of what Google is doing to find and keep their employees? Amazon has also been through a major revamping of its image as an employer, making it a coveted place to work in Seattle.
What can this shift in attitudes towards work teach all of us about our relationship between work and life? Well, it makes me think this generation has seen how “happy” their parents are after years of pressing through the daily grind just to earn a living. I wonder if unsatisfactory relationships with parents who never had enough time for them (most Millenials were raised in high-stress and/or broken homes) has shed an unsavory light on the priorities of previous generations.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Working and earning a living, the right to choose what you want to do for a living, how long you work and having some say in how much you make based on your occupational choice are all blessings from God. But have Americans traditionally had an unhealthy relationship with their work? Could doing have become more important than being in our hard-working, ruggedly individualistic society?
Ask someone to tell you something about themselves and they usually tell you what they do. Ask them a follow-up question about who they are or what makes them unique and most struggle to come up with a good way to describe themselves without telling you again what they do or where they live. This shouldn’t be the case for Christians. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
God has given us our identity in Christ who has taught us to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, confident that God will take care of the details for us. I think that the millennial ideal of Live First, Work Second makes the Millennial mind more receptive to a gospel of being instead of doing. If we understand who we are in light of Christ and His sacrifice for us, we will be led on the way of true joy and happiness.
If we get who we are in Christ and live lives invested in eternity, everything we do has eternal value because of WHO WE ARE. Not because of what we do. This gives everything in life lasting meaning.
This mindest equips Christians with an ethos, an understanding of who they are, that makes all of the difference between emptiness and fulfillment. So who are we? Redeemed children of God whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Cleansed by His righteousness, we live in light of the resurrection. Assured of our share in the hope of the resurrection, we are given every day as a gift to freely serve our Lord and Savior.
This is the mentality of the life of faith which is founded upon who God is and who He has made us in Christ. This way of living is the only Way that offers a fulfilling satisfaction for the soul that longs for eternity in a dying world. A scriptural Live First, Work Second mindset is Holy Spirit given and allows Christians freedom to love and to serve and to find a truly fulfilling life in Christ.
Live First, Work Second!