On the Nature of Goodness and Work

working-1493062 - Robert BurressAmong mankind, there are few things that tend to cause more dissatisfaction, apathy, and bitterness than work.  Work is viewed as a means to an end, namely money, and is, therefore, a necessary evil.  Seldom do people refer to labor as inherently good, but instead refer to a good living or making a good wage.  As a result, creating good work has decreased as a primary concern, making quality and purpose plummet along with spirit.  The irony is that work, from a Biblical view, was created from the beginning to be good for man.  Would it not be better then, as Dorothy Sayers suggested, that we, “ask of an enterprise, not ‘will it pay?’ but ‘is it good?’”[1]  After all of God’s creation, the Bible makes a point to say that, “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”  The statement demonstrates that work is not sinful in and of itself.  Work was, and remains, a good part of Creation and good for man.  It was part of His plan that man should work, each created with various talents to serve different needs of society.  Man was designed to work and to do it well – it was His mandate.

American culture and, indeed, most developed countries today, have generated the idea that “good” constitutes “happy” or “pleasant.”  The perverse inversion of this equation is the historically incredible proposition that anything unpleasant must not be good!  As work can often require much time, tremendous energy, tedious tasks, and other unpleasantries, very few people have maintained the view that work is truly good for the soul.  Many people adhere to the popular idea that if you ‘do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life.’  Sure, being happy while you work and doing something you like is a positive ideal, but there will always be parts of work that are simply just tough.  Only the fortunate ones whose labor emphasizes their gifts, matches their interests, and serves the needs of the world can work through the rough patches and find satisfaction in their work, particularly when it serves the One who made you to do so.

It is easy for us imperfect humans to concentrate too much on the process rather than the final product, which is what should ultimately matter in our work.  Perhaps being happy with your work would be an even greater goal than being happy at work all of the time.  It’s no wonder that people are miserable with their work with those kind of expectations.  Perhaps our focus ought to be on using our natural abilities and interests in our work so that we care about what we create.  Since God designed man to work and created each person with unique abilities according to His purpose, could it not be true that one disobeys and dishonors God when he or she does not strive to work well?  We ought to truly believe that, regardless of the moments when our labor is not fun, work is inherently a necessary good; that it is good to create, good to serve, and good to do what you were made to do, honoring God, ourselves, and others in the process.

 

 

Cara Brown works to develop training events for organizations in the not-for-profit world.  She is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.

Photos: Freeimages.com/Griszka Niewiadomski, Robert Burress

[1] Dorothy L. Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church (Nashville, TN:  W Publishing Group, 2004), 132-133.

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  • Collin Young

    I like how this discussion of work focuses on the whole perspective of work rather than just focusing in on the tasks that could seem menial. I think sometimes the perspective of work in the view of how God intended it can really push us to consider the value in those menial things that we might not appreciate as much. Sometimes it takes this broader view to see that every task that we do in our work we can do for the Lord.