“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” Robert Orben
I’m pretty sure that God has some interest in what I do each weekday from when I leave home in the morning until I return for dinner. But I have to admit that work is not the place where I think about God the most. I usually consider work to be simply a means to an end. “I work to live,” I quote smugly to those I consider too enamoured with their day jobs, “I don’t live to work”. Work puts food on my table and a roof above my head. It allows me to support my church and send my kids to a Christian school. Occasionally it even enables me to get away on a nice vacation. But more often it gets in the way of what I deem higher callings in life: relationships, volunteering, education, worship. If I found my name on the Forbes list, would I show up to work that day?
When I agreed to contribute to this blog, I was asked to come up with a name for my space. I immediately googled “cool words” and spent about an hour (at my office, in obvious work-avoidance mode) reading through the funky ones I found here. I wanted to write something related to work, so I settled on the word banausic. (New City Church prides itself on being ”city-focused”, so I slipped the “city” part on the end and voila: banausicity). Banausoi is ancient Greek for “working slobs.” Smart Greek guys like Plato and Aristotle weren’t much into the “honest day’s work” thing. “It accustoms a man’s mind to low ideas and absorbs him in the pursuit of the mere means of life.” For them the highest vocation was that of philosopher, which by stroke of serendipity required a fulltime life of leisure. Sure, somebody needed to grow the food and keep the economy churning, but that was to be left to lesser beings: the banausoi. This sort of thinking has taken deep root in western culture. Consider Oscar Wilde: “Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do.” Or this line from a book I’m reading on the history of Haiti: “The master is the man who does no work; … to be free is to be idle.”
I’m reading the book, by the way, because I recently came back from a trip to Haiti. One of my non-work activities is to help out an organization that operates a school and medical clinic in Port-au-Prince. Coming back to the office after a swashbuckling week of making the world a better place felt a little claustrophobic. I wondered if my day job was holding me back from doing some “great work for God.” With the benefit of some hindsight (not to mention a nasty stomach virus I took home with me), I’m wondering now if God sees much difference between my “day job” and “great work.” There’s definitely tension in the Bible as to whether the daily grind of ordinary work is a good thing or not. Take a look at the creation/fall narrative in Genesis. God created hard for six days, then (according to Rich Mullins) ”knocked off work ’cause it was Friday night.” God put Adam to work in perfect paradise, then cursed him with hard labour as punishment for disobedience. Ask anybody who has been unemployed and they will assure you that having a day job is a blessing not a curse. But ask anybody who has a day job and they will tell you to the minute how long until the weekend. Have another look at that Genesis story: that Adam must work is not the punishment. God created people to work from day one (well, day six technically). It is a way that we bear his image in our lives. The curse is that Adam’s work environment will resist his authority and control. No longer perfectly reflective of God as worker, he can no longer expect his work to work perfectly. And that hits him square in the centre of his being. But there remains grace: he may still work and in doing so continue to connect with his Creator.
It’s that tension that I think I’d like to explore in this blog – not so much why, but how work can still be a good thing. Not just for your pocket book, but also for your soul.
The mission of Intersection is to help our readers to see how the gospel of Jesus intersects & transforms all of life in a very real way. Our goal is to destroy the false & harmful dichotomy between 'the sacred' & 'the secular' by presenting a wide range of perspectives that focus on different aspects of life in the city. These stories, reflections, observations, & opinions all have one thing in common—the shared conviction that every arena of life can be holy & beautiful when it is lived out in full awareness of the gospel & in full submission to the leadership of Jesus. Although the Intersection team loves, values, & supports all of its contributors, the views expressed in their posts are ultimately their own & may not necessarily reflect the beliefs & values of New City Church.