arr. Marques Garrett
Work. It is an inevitable part of life for us, and over the last year or so, our relationship with it has been changing.
Some of that change is with the job itself- we might have had to learn to work from home, or had to make a career change as our industry dried up in quarantine, or we may have lost a job and struggled to find a new one.
However, I think our relationship with work is changing, too.
Did we like our job because of the work or because of the people? Does working from home work for me?
There is a movement in the Millennial generation called “antiwork,” filled with ideas about not having dream jobs (because why would my dream be labor?), and defending your time off. It touts the idea of a living wage, and seeks to expose the unethical exploitation of the working class that occurs in America today.
In other generations, there is a sort of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy. A belief that hard work is rewarded in kind.
In the church, we hear ideas about work like “God helps those who help themselves” or “Work like God is your boss.” Only the second phrase really comes from Scripture (Colossians 3:23), but the ideas of self-initiative and agency that they imply can be found in the Good Book. Proverbs is particularly filled with work-related verses (6:10-12; 12:11, 24; 13:4; 21:31), all espousing some version of “work begets success, daydreaming gets you nowhere.” We see this idea in the parable of the Ten Talents as well (Matthew 25:14-30).
But even within the Bible, we see yet another perspective. If hard-work and individualism alone were what God wanted for and from us, what do we make of our favorite, Psalm 23 espoused biblical allegory of the Shepherd and the sheep? Or the wild flowers dressed more beautifully than King Solomon (Luke 12:22-34)?
Being both a Millennial and a Christian, I feel in the unique position of getting the best of all of these ideas. Whoops. Did I say best? I meant worst. I meant that I am pulled in every possible direction by these ideas.
In the matter of work, I think the truth lies in the hardest place to find. The middle. These ideas of work make the most sense individually if treated as complementary.
There is no doubt that honest work on the part of the individual is important in the scriptures, but I do not think that means we are to live individualistically.
If we work hard to “get what’s mine,” how are we living like sheep?
On the other hand, we are called to rest on the Sabbath and not fret about tomorrow, but how will justice ever roll down like waters unless we do the hard work necessary to make that happen?
If we do as little work as possible to get by, are we not just burying our talents in the ground?
The call is to make the world a better place for all of us, and that takes work.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.