Scriptural Guidance for Success in Our Gig Economy

Can you thrive in a gig economy?
Can you thrive in a gig economy? (Pixabay)

The U. S. economy and much of the world is moving toward a gig economy. A gig economy is characterized by workers taking part-time or temporary employment arrangements (gigs). Consultants, freelancers and contract employees would be considered gig employees. Some may be full-time employees who are moonlighting to supplement their income, create multiple revenue streams or gain more control over their careers. Other gig employees don't have a full-time job, but are taking sequential, or even multiple part-time, gigs for income, flexibility or control reasons.

A LinkedIn study examined the gig phenomena. They study documented that 27 percent of current gig workers had full-time jobs. Gig employment is expected to grow from 6 percent of the workforce in 1989 to 43 percent by 2020. Expressed reasons for joining the gig workforce include extra income (57 percent), schedule control (46 percent), work-life balance (35 percent), being their own boss (32 percent) and trying something new (32 percent). Of the gig workers surveyed, 67 percent were satisfied or highly satisfied, while 23 percent were dissatisfied. Nearly half (47 percent) of these workers intended to increase their total gig hours and more than a third (34 percent) expected the same hours.

Diane Mulcahy wrote an article in Harvard Business Review identifying the type of worker that gains and losses from the gig economy. According to Ms. Mulcahy, winners include those workers who are highly skilled or have in-demand experience, entrepreneurs and workers that have been marginalized (those that have "bad" jobs, stay-at-home parents, the retired, the elderly, students and the disabled). Workers that will struggle in the gig economy include anyone whose skills are common, less-in-demand or commoditized (e.g., lower level managers, executive assistants, bookkeepers).

The gig economy is here and is likely to grow. It offers opportunities to increase income, flexibility (what, when where, and how much), self-control and self-actualization. Too many of today's dissatisfied and stressed workers have disengaged from their jobs. The gig economy may be part of the solution for those that are willing to take the initiative.

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For the believer, the new gig economy offers the opportunity to better meet the multivariate responsibilities of God, family and work. The new paradigm provides the opportunity to increase income and may provide a more flexible work schedule. Additional monies can be used to improve our family's standard of living and build the Kingdom. Some gig jobs give us the opportunity to improve our skills. Most gig jobs will allow us to expand our circle of influence.

For a time, Paul was a gig worker. In Corinth, he worked as a tent maker during the week and preached every Sabbath in the synagogue to Jews and Greeks. Paul went out of his way to explain that he had the right to be supported in his ministry (and other apostles took advantage of that right). But during this time at Corinth, he wanted to offer the gospel free-of-charge that he might win more converts. Gig employment allowed him to meet his desire.

"After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. He found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to them. And because he was of the same trade, he remained with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. He lectured in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:1-4).

"If we have sown for you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your material things? If others partake of this right over you, should not we instead?  Nevertheless, we have not used this right, but suffer all things, lest we might hinder the gospel of Christ" (1 Cor. 9:11-12).

"What is my reward then? Truly that when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, so that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself servant to all, that I might win even more" (1 Cor. 9:18-19).

Some general guidelines for believers to follow in the gig economy include the following:

1. Be directed by the Lord. The Lord's guidance will lead you to win-win situations where both parties benefit; sometimes to a divine purpose.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6).

2. Be scrupulously honest. Don't exaggerate your skills or overpromise expected outputs. Make sure billable hours are honest. If currently employed elsewhere, do not steal hours or focus from your current employer.

"Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men" (2 Cor. 8:21).

3. Be diligent. If the Lord is leading you to gig employment, diligently search for opportunities. If employed (gig or otherwise), be a diligent, hard-working, conscientious and responsible worker. We are representing the King.

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:23).

4. Maintain balance and keep your priorities. Gig employment offers many opportunities but can also create issues. Keep the Lord and your family first. Keep your priorities straight.

"He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22).

For further information on being a good employee, see last week's article, 5 Biblical Steps to Being Invaluable in Your Workplace.

"A work with the Blessing of God upon it should be our normal work." —Watchman Nee.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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