Monday, August 23, 2010


My pastor sent me a link to his friend's blog, which discusses work in relation to Christian discipleship. After reading a few (good) posts, I wrote these thoughts about work. I saved this post to expand further, but never got to it.

One major problem with work is that in the post-industrial revolution world is that home and work are now separated. When people used their homes and land as work space, both places were of utmost importance, to keep orderly and maintained, fertile and healthy. People depended on the land they owned to provide for their existence, so of course they took great care of their workplace. Maintenance of one's house and one's outbuildings and fields was all in a day's work.

Now our work has very little connection with where we live. Home is an oasis; a place of leisure, where the real enjoyment of life is supposed to take place. "Home is where the heart is," and because the two are apart, people don't put their heart into their work. Our workplaces are burdens; a price to pay for getting back home to the real stuff. This mentality can only result in shoddy workmanship - only doing our best on that for which we are held accountable; doing just enough to not get fired.

In agricultural days, many people owned, lived, and tended small pieces of land. Today, most everyone works for someone else, and people do not "own" their work. Lack of ownership is a problem for which I see little end in sight. If you are not doing work that you want to last for years to come, but just getting your paycheck, your mentality of work will be treating it as something inferior, to be rushed through.

The way forward here, I think, is to find the meaning in what we do, and to work with that meaning in mind. But also, we must abstain from doing work whose only meaning is the paycheck that awaits us; from allowing ourselves to be cogs in meaningless wheels.


chad said...

What exactly is "work" ? And is our current definition of the word work in line with what scripture means about when it says to work?

It seems in this blog post when you say "work" you really mean "wage earning activity" correct?

When people say "I gotta go to work," they mean I gotta go do something that brings money into the household. but I think that is part of what is wrong. Work is so much more than that.

Most folks fill 40+ hours of their week with this thing they call work, because 40+ hours is how much time you are supposed to spend in wage earning activity to live at a certain standard of living. But the work they do after the wage earning is done may very well be more important than the wage earning activity itself (and I'm not only talking about leading a bible study after work or some other ministry, I'm talking about stuff like changing diapers or working through a conflict with your wife or neighbor).

It seems to me that we spend all our waking hours either working or not working. Some of our work involves wage earning, some does not. Some of our work is meaningful, some you just grit your teeth through it and wish it was all over because it seems so inferior to the meaningful work you're doing at other times. But when you grit your teeth, grit your teeth with all your heart, and work as unto the Lord, not for men.

Interesting anecdote: The guy who captured the alligator they found in the chicago river took the day off "work" to capture that alligator. At that point he was not at "work," he was "just a volunteer" he said. But his alligator catching volunteer activity was work, was it not? I found that sentence so strange. He made a point to tell the reporters that he "took off work" to catch the alligator. Isn't that so weird??

chad said...

by the way, I'm working right now, as I type this. And I'm not getting any money out of it either.

Brian Stipp said...

I should be more clear. I don't understand work to be only wage earning activities. I don't think that was implied in my post.

The other angle that of work I didn't discuss in this post, and I think responds to your thoughts, goes back to Sabbath. We should define for ourselves what work is, so that we know what to abstain from on the Sabbath. What are the things that are appropriate to rest from on the 7th (or 1st) day?

I have recently felt God calling me to rest from writing and house projects on Sundays. Writing and painting the basement aren't making me any money, but they are part of my life, and I need to set them within limits. Diaper changing, on the other hand, is work that is appropriate to continue for 7 days.

This seems like a subject change from my original post, but I think both are true. We need to take joy and ownership in our work, and that work, whatever it is, is something we need to stop doing once a week. And I think we can only sustain such joy and ownership when we believe in it; when we see it not as a means to a greater end, but as something God-given for our enjoyment.