Lately I have been seeing a new buzz word in the news and various social media platforms: “Quiet Quitting,” which when presented positively it refers to the need among younger workers to having a better harmony between their work lives and personal lives.
Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech writes, “The term ‘quiet quitting’ means to stop going above and beyond in the workplace.” She acknowledges that the idea is certainly not new, but that “…attention around it has caused much-needed conversations about work-life balance.” James Paul writes, “It is not exactly quitting rather limiting your work within the purview of what your profile is and not doing a bit more or any bit less than what you are being paid for.” NPR joins the chorus in tweeting, “You may have heard of "quiet quitting." It's the choice to do only your assigned work — and nothing more. But some experts say it's a misnomer for simply setting healthy workplace boundaries and refusing to be exploited for free extra labor.”
Not everyone considers this to be a positive trend, with some calling it a serious threat to our way of life. Arianna Huffington writes, “With worker productivity slipping and a near-record number of unfilled jobs, the economy can ill afford a tsunami of snowflakes slacking.” Others simply view quiet quitting as a synonym for being lazy. It certainly has the appearance of moral high ground when you are concerned for and addressing burnout, rather than simply doing as little as possible to keep your job.
Brad Stulberg strikes the middle ground: “For some people work is just a job. You do it, you leave it, you live your life. For other people work is craft and mastery—it’s a large part of your identity and a big source of fulfillment. Both are totally fine.”
Perhaps an organization needs both. Those who simply do a specific job that is vital to the fulfillment of their goals and objectives. There is no expectation (or reward) for some positions to go over and above their assigned job because what they do is exactly what is needed. An organization also needs individuals who do more, see more, dream more, and push the boundaries of their job description. While some consider this exploitation, the truth is that there are always individuals who want to achieve more than those around them. Whether it is because of a competitive spirit, or the desire to grow both in accomplishment and influence, they are not content to simply play the game, they want to win!
Despite recent awareness from Millennials and Gen Z workers, this is not new. Whether it was at school, work, or play, there have always been the do the bare minimum “quiet quitters” and the over-achieving “loud winners,” or as Huffington calls them, the “Joyful Joiners.”
I was formerly employed by one of these United States (I’ll not mention where to protect the guilty) as an asphalt inspector. My title was, “Highway Engineering Assistant IV,” and I spent my days checking temperature and mix ratios of asphalt as it left the plant to ensure it met the state’s standards. While this was a necessary job, there was little, or no zeal or creativity involved—in fact the state was adamant that you performed the tasks in a specific and consistent manner. There was very little stress involved, even when the summer hours were long. There was even less stress when inclement weather shut down the process through the winter months. I and my fellow Engineering Assistants spent weeks sitting in the main lab with little or nothing to do. While most of my co-workers relished these days of ease spent honing their card-playing and coffee-break taking skills, they nearly drove me crazy! Had I known they were merely, “quiet quitters,” I might not have been so quick to refer to them as some of the laziest persons on the planet.
In the same way, I have known pastors and church staff who have been quietly quitting the church for years. They put in their required hours, perform their agreed upon responsibilities, but are seemingly unwilling to do any more. I was once in a staff meeting and we were planning an upcoming event and when the conversation turned toward ways we could work together to help make it a success, one of the staff stated, “That’s not my job!”
I was upset and confused because I had made the mistake of thinking the pastoral staff was a team. And if, according to Jesus, the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who is the servant of all, then shouldn’t those who lead the church also lead in serving?
I took some solace in remembering that Jesus had similar issues with his disciples. Remember the incident in the upper room described in chapter thirteen of John’s Gospel? Though the reason was not given, no one was willing to wash the disciple’s feet before they reclined for the Passover. This was a role normally undertaken by a servant of the host. Because no one in the group volunteered to do this menial task, they all reclined with dirty feet.
Can you imagine the embarrassment and shame they must have felt when Jesus got up, put on a towel, and preceded to wash their feet? Do you remember the response of Peter? “You will never wash my feet!” And the equally embarrassing rebuke of Jesus, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me” (v.8). As the shame settled in the room, Jesus provided an explanation for his actions: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you” (v.15).
It’s not just leaders that are reluctant to serve. People have been quietly quitting—church members doing no more and no less than the bare minimum, for as long as I have been a pastor!
Since a very good principle for pastor-teachers everywhere is “no rebuke without a remedy,” here is a solution: First, recognize that for many, service in the church will come with spiritual growth and maturity. If the highest mark of maturity is sacrifice and service, it stands to reason that growth in the Lord will be required before a servant’s spirit is manifest.
Second, spiritual growth starts with instruction. Jesus stated to the disciples, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (v.14). The willingness to do the “ought-to’s” of the Bible often takes time and growth to become our normal practice. It is a measure of maturity when a believer fully embraces Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him” (v.16).
Third, it is only when a person learns who they are in Jesus Christ that they will be motivated to serve as he did! In my opinion, the most important part of this passage is verses 3-5, “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.” Because Jesus knew who he was, where he had come from, and where he was going, he had the ability to willingly serve.
One more thought from verse 17. Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Faith is made sight by action. The place of blessing is not in learning or understanding, but in acting on what you know. Rather than embracing the quiet quitting of our culture, understand that you were made to be a servant of all and that whatever you must do, do with all your heart to the glory of God!