The Bureau of Labor Statistics released another strong employment situation report. The August change in total non-farm employment increased 201,000 (compared to 147,000 in July). Total private payrolls increased 204,000 in August (vs. 153,000 in July). Manufacturing employment fell 3,000 for the month, but is up 254,000 compared to last year. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.9 percent.
Average hourly earnings were up 0.4 percent during August, compared to 0.3 percent in July and expectations of 0.2 percent. Compared to a year ago, August earnings were up 2.9 percent, which was above July's estimate and pre-report forecasts of 2.7 percent.
Most economists believe we are at or near the full employment level for the economy. A dynamic economy will always have people who are unemployed. Some are unemployed temporarily (frictional unemployment) and others become unemployed because their industry has permanently downsized or become obsolete (structural unemployment). Still others become unemployed because of the business cycle (cyclical unemployment). If an economy just has frictional and structural unemployment, it is considered to be at full employment. We are currently at or near those levels.
At full employment, a tight labor market forces business to bid up wages to keep current employees and to hire new employees. Wage increases can cause inflationary concerns which can motivate the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy and raise interest rates. Markets are currently expecting the Fed to raise interest rates another couple of times this year and as many as 3-4 times next year. Higher interest rates, combined with trade uncertainty, are raising cautionary flags for the 2019 economy.
When asked which commandment was the most important, the Lord told us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and body, and to love others as ourselves. In other words, our all should be fully employed in Him and in His purposes.
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31).
Can we imagine what it would be like if we and our churches were fully employed in kingdom work? What if our relationships with Christ were such that we could honestly say, as Paul said, it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives through us? What if we submitted to Christ, as Jesus willingly submitted to the Father's will in dying for us? Our purposes and results would give way to His purposes and results. We would exchange our resources for heaven's resources. Our lives and our families would be changed. Our churches and the world would be changed for His glory.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Regardless of vocation, the divine exchange which Paul described would allow everyone to be effective witnesses. The Lord would provide opportunities to share His love. But, even without saying a word, His presence in us and our example would give witness of His love, goodness and caring.
Pastors are a very busy people and are pulled a variety of directions. Pastors must preach the gospel, teach, insure the service goes smoothly, visit the sick, pray for the sheep, provide counsel, manage finances, provide facilities, welcome visitors, provide for praise and worship, marry and bury congregants and a host of other planned and unplanned activities. In addition, they must fulfill these responsibilities at the Lord's direction and in a way which is pleasing to elders, other leaders, employees, volunteers, congregants and visitors while not violating laws, codes and zoning. All of this must be done while having a model family who is facing many of the pressures the pastor faces. If not careful, it is easy to concentrate on the squeaky wheels while ignoring important priorities.
Fortunately, the Scriptures provide guidance for pastors and other fivefold leaders. The charge to ministers is to equip the saints for service and to build up the body of Christ. The divine exchange is the vehicle which puts people in a position to be equipped. Paul told Timothy to teach the word. Disciples became truly effective after they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. The spiritual gifts of the congregation provide for service. Let us all be fully employed in kingdom work for the glory of the Father.
He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness with deceitful scheming (Eph. 4:11-14).
"As everyone has received a gift, even so serve one another with it, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:10).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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