There’s been a lot of buzz about “quiet quitting”, which began with a series of TikTok videos talking about the woes of the hustle culture and how we ought to take back our lives. At a basic level, quiet quitting is about sticking strictly to working hours and not doing any more than what is expected.
The movement is fuelled by many legitimate concerns about how all-consuming our work has become, especially after the last two years of seeing work bleed into the home life and stress and burnout becoming so commonplace.
Aside from that, many people have also realised that it’s not worth going all out anymore when all their years of hard work have not paid off. Then there are also those who see their jobs as just the means to pay the bills, so it makes sense to do only the minimum.
Beyond feeling frustrated, disillusioned, or disengaged, there’s at least one more positive reason for quiet quitting—when people are now saying no to the idea that “work has to be your life”—and this is a good thing.[i]
Then again, as it tends to happen with any movement, there’s been backlash against quiet quitting coming from business leaders and career coaches,[ii] who have taken the negative connotations of the word “quitting” to mean that these people must be “quitters” who are “lazy”.
It’s not that we don’t care
When I think about the jobs I’ve had before, it’s not hard to recall periods where I’ve gone into the “quiet quitting” mode. More than clocking out on the dot, the real issue was feeling disengaged and disheartened about work—not seeing the point of what I was doing, not sensing that things would get better, not trusting that there would be room for growth.
As for friends who have shared their work frustrations and are in that “disengaged” mode, I see that it comes from a place of wanting to find satisfaction and fulfilment in their work. Even when they’d leave early and pull back, it didn’t mean that they had stopped caring altogether. In most cases, they still thought about their work a lot, and wanted to find a way to either make the situation better or, if that fails, move to a different workplace.
As the Teacher in Ecclesiastes points out, toil is a hard fact of life (Ecclesiastes 2:17-26, 4)—and it’s often through our work that we grapple with a sense of meaninglessness.
But as always, the Bible doesn’t leave us on a hopeless note. Even as Ecclesiastes highlights the meaninglessness of this life multiple times, it also repeatedly tells us (2:24-25, 3:12-14, 5:18) that happiness in toil is possible:
When God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).
What the world might have us do is either ask our employers to make our jobs better or look within ourselves to find and pursue meaning. But the Bible, as always, points to the third way—that there is no meaning and happiness apart from God, who gives them as gifts.
Is it our lot to quiet quit?
It’s easy to think about how often the Bible calls us to give generously (Proverbs 11:25, Romans 12:1, 1 Timothy 6:18) and work with all our hearts (Colossians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Galatians 6:9-10). But it’s not so easy to recall examples of God commanding anyone to do the minimum and draw strict boundaries about work commitments.
If we dig deeper to uncover what might be pushing us to quiet quit, could it be that we’re so caught up in our expectations of what work should yield that we become disappointed and disillusioned when it doesn’t turn out the way we expect?
Do we picture work as simply an investment which, if it’s not giving an ideal return, we should then withdraw?Do we struggle with an all-or-nothing mindset—that if we can’t give all that’s expected of us, we might as well go the other way and scale back to the least output?
While we may be tempted to think in such binary terms, the Bible encourages us to see that even in our weakness, God works through us (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we find ourselves empty, He gives us all we need to carry on. Moreover, He also gave us the gift of rest.
When we think about how much we stand to lose, God reminds us that He will give us so we can be equipped to give freely and abound in good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).
But if we work with a scarcity mindset, with guarded hearts and clenched fists, how can we really receive what God has to offer?
When we just have nothing left to give
If you’ve been tempted to quiet quit, it could be a challenge for you to think about your relationship with work differently—to see that work doesn’t just boil down to finding that one fulfilling dream job or being consigned to a life of drudgery.
Because of our relationship with God, every moment, including the dullest ones at work, is an opportunity to reach out to God and honestly share with Him how we’re feeling—even if all we can say is, “God, this really sucks, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Colossians 3 reminds us that we are to work “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” and that “it is the Lord Christ [we] are serving” (22, 24). Paul isn’t telling us to work ourselves to death, but to look to Jesus and let Him be our Master, precisely because He is not a taskmaster, but our gentle and humble Saviour and Lord.
And contrary to how we imagine people might respond (or what we might say to ourselves), He won’t push us away or tell us to “get it together!”, but will be compassionate towards us.
I know there are many days when I am simply not at my best, no matter how much I try. But on days when my heart and mind are struggling to show up, I have the choice to pray and ask God for strength. When I’m not able to fire on all engines, I can choose a more doable task and work carefully at it. When I find myself stumped, I can see if my colleague is available for a quick chat, and perhaps we can brainstorm for ideas.
Since we don’t all have the same job, working with all our hearts may look different for all of us. But as we ask God to search our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24), we can trust that He will lead us to work in a way that honours Him.Quiet quitting operates under the notion that no one’s going to look out for me but myself, but as believers, we absolutely have God looking out for us.
In Christ, we have the wisdom and strength to do more than quiet quit—to go deep and identify the root issue of our struggles, whether it’s the need to rest, to quit with integrity, or to take a step back, set better boundaries, and not let work define and consume us.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
(Colossians 3:17, 23)