I believe in hard work and frugality. Depending on your perspective, that makes me either a victim or beneficiary of the Protestant work ethic. Researchers have linked hard work and frugality particularly with Protestant cultures. It was first observed and popularized by Max Weber in 1904.

Recent observations of  individuals and vendors cause me to wonder if this work ethic is changing.

First vendors. I am having trouble finding vendors who care whether or not they gain and keep my business. For example, I have a casement window that needs a new gear box. The first vendor I asked to take care of it came to my property, took the gear box, and disappeared. I never heard from them again. My next attempt was to do the work myself. I found a vendor that offered to sell me the gear box and promised it would arrive in a week. I started calling about the order at the end of the week, but the vendor did not return my calls and would not give me straight answers. I gave up on that vendor after he strung me along for a month. I have now contracted with a third vendor to come and replace the entire window for three times the cost of the gear box. I hope this vendor follows through!

I am even more surprised by the seeming lack of effort demonstrated by young people I hire. Each summer I hire a small group of students to clean a rental property that I own. About half of them are dependable and hard-working. The other half have a condescending attitude. They communicate that I owe them something. They slough off when they are not being watched. They don’t pay attention to what I tell them. In fact, I get the feeling they try to avoid me. They make me regret the $12/hour that I pay them for the short time they work for me.

The Protestant work ethic probably primarily arises from the Apostle Paul. He worked hard in business and in ministry and instructed his followers to follow his example. He wrote to the Thessalonians:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

May God help you and me be people who resist temptations toward laziness and instead invest our energy productively.