Fridays. The world in which we live views Friday with its own acronym, TGIF (Thank God [or goodness] its Friday), since the general view is that work is something we can’t wait to get away from so we can be at our real life, which is the pursuit of pleasurable experiences.
We have all sorts of these little phrases, some brought to us by advertising, that reinforce the apparent drudgery of work. McDonald’s came up with one that for years I couldn’t get out of my head and even now it’s refrain often attempts to justify a period of inactivity and self indulgence to me. “You deserve a break today.” You have been working so hard, you deserve a break; not you could use a break, or a break might re-energize your efforts, but you deserve a break. You are owed it. It is your right.
Listening to all of this you would think that no one enjoys their work any more and everyone thinks that work is an unnatural demand on our lives that must, for practical reasons like food and shelter, be gotten through. The great goal of technology and social advancement for the last 100 years has been to reduce the demands of the workweek, to create more time for leisure, with the ultimate goal of leisure rather than work becoming our purpose in life.
That goal is completely foreign to my Christian foundations. The Bible begins its discussion of the subject with “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” Genesis 3:19. As we look at the Gospels, there is a very difficult parable told by Jesus in Luke 17: 7-10.
Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
Without arguing over the master and servant part, let’s instead focus on the fact that the passage assumes that work is the duty of life, while in direct contrast our culture looks at work as the plague of life. As a result, there is a severe disconnect between the foundational view of my faith and what my culture aspires to. When I look at my culture I do not see any celebration of the nobility of work, no sense of duty, or if there is duty, duty is seen as a dirty, lifeless word, not a sublime virtue to be aspired to. The main message is that work is drudgery to be avoided at all costs. There are areas where this view is not prevalant such as with firemen, policemen, some medical personnel, or the military, but by and large the work as drudgery refrain is the anthem for most of the American workforce.
So, I guess a fundamental question we should be asking ourselves is are we better people when pleasure or work guides our existence? I know what I think considering my own experience. What do you think and why?