Wednesday

Working

 Everything we do, according to physics, is "work".

Do you categorize work? I do. There is some work I love, and some that is necessary but my attitude is get it done quickly so we can move on to something else. There is also work that I thoroughly enjoy, like the stuff I do down in the WritingPlaces Workshop.

Children have work. It's called "play". Child development experts will tell you that children should have time to play because it helps them process the surrounding world. You can tell a lot about what is going on in childrens' minds by how they play when they don't know someone is watching.

 

The Nature of Work

The nature of work has changed drastically since the Industrial Revolution, when many went outside their homes to work in factories. This was also the era when a lot of our labor laws were developed, like the 40-hour work week. Before these labor laws people, including children, would work all hours of the day, six days a week, in factories that were filthy and unsafe. Labor laws as we have them today are a good example of how government 'interference' can be beneficial.

Before the Industrial Revolution, work for life's sustenance was largely contained within the family unit and people were identified by their work in the community. Of course roles have developed over time. We no longer have families that make candles so that people will have light. The family of a grocer does not go downstairs and work in the family grocery store until time to close. Women teachers are no longer required to be single. Today a teacher's life outside school is separate from his or her work, or "the job", as our formal work is now called.

Back in earlier times, it was easy to meld our work, or jobs, with every part of our existence. Now most people drive away from their families to work in an office or a factory or a school. Our work is separate from our families. In fact, psychologists try to get us to disassociate from our work in such a way that we don't completely identify ourselves in it. That's healthy. We have to have other things to do; however with the way things are many times the only connection our children have with our jobs is food that they eat, the house in which they live and the things that they have or don't have. Some get an allowance and some don't have to work for anything. Come to think on it, some adults get an 'allowance' without having to work for it.  This disassociation with work is unhealthy.

 

Attitude Toward Work

In the past, work was seen as a penance for original sin; however, scripture is clear that "we are to work as for the Lord and not for men." It is not a form of penance even though sometimes it feels that way; it is to be our expression of the love we have for God. Everything in our lives should meld together under the umbrella of God's grace. It is through our lives that this grace is extended to others.

From the early day until evening our lives belong to work, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. He echoes the New Testament writers in their view that work and a relationship with God are one. In Life Together, Bonhoeffer wrote, In most cases a community of Christians living together will separate for the duration of the working hours. Praying and working are two different things. Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer. Just as it was God's will that human beings should work six days and rest and celebrate before the face of God on the seventh, so it is also God's will that every day should be marked for the Christian both by prayer and work. Prayer also requires its own time. But the longest part of the day belongs to work. The inseparable unity of both will become clear when work and prayer each receives its own undivided due.

A Christian cannot work effectively unless fueled by prayer - that is,  communion with God. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit fuels us with joy to handle the task at hand. This is in direct relation to time spent with God in prayer. In turn, God gives wisdom for each task to the Christian and helps his follower extend grace to others while working.

I like what John Wesley said about work in Sermon 50. His three points were: 1)We ought to gain all we can gain but this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expense of life, nor at the expense of our health; 2) Do not throw the precious talent into the sea; and 3) Having first, gained all you can, and, secondly, saved all you can, then give all you can.

 

Becoming one

When I was without a formal job, I wondered how I could meld myself and my relationship with God as one with my work. It all comes down to attitude. We need to assess ourselves by making sure that our work is profitable and helps support our family so that we're not a burden to others. We also need to make sure that what we do benefits our spiritual life. It's difficult to have a job that makes you do things that are contrary to God's word and follow Christ at the same time. We need to spend what we earn wisely and help others as much as we are able and we need to employ as many of the talents that we have as much as we are able. Many of our talents may not come out in our formal jobs, but they can come out in other ways. This too is work. In everything, though, we need to be as Christ-like as possible and depend on the Holy Spirit to help us in this regard.

So as you work this week remember that whatever you are doing is a reflection of the way you allow Christ to work in you. By keeping Christ first you may find that even the unpleasant tasks can have  joy.