This post was contributed by a worker in North Africa.
It’s Labor Day today, at least in the USA. In essence, it is a holiday or day of festivities, held in honor of working people. Ironically, we celebrate “work” by taking a break from work!
Whether employed in a vocation that offers a rich sense of purpose or engaged in a job solely to provide income, work is a defining aspect of life. It affects how we feel about ourselves and often how others regard us. It determines, in large part, our personal sense of worth – even our very purpose in life.
Here in North Africa, we are seeking to elevate the meaning of work – regardless of income or recognition. We have been focusing on helping women to see the dignity and importance of motherhood and homemaking, relating the chores and duties of a woman’s everyday life, challenging the manner and spirit in which a humble job is performed – even deriving spiritual meaning from those very tasks. By example: “The Lesson of Sweeping.” There are two ways of sweeping – a good way and a bad way. You can tell a clever woman from a foolish idle woman by the way she sweeps her room – contrasting the sensible one (who sweeps the dust into the open and removes it from the room) to the shortcut of the idle one (who sweeps it under the bed!).
Scripture has much to say about work: from the very beginning. First off, God worked. Then He rested. Tim Keller states: “Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it.” And He intended the same for us. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Work gives us a sense of dignity, purpose, meaning in life. It is, in fact, one of our most important purposes in life – intended by God and prepared in advance by Him for us. Work, of course, is necessary for our basic survival, sustenance to say nothing of maintenance of what we have been given and/or worked for.
In reality, however, work can be hard or unpleasant, given the nature of the task or the conditions in which we work, whether the physical space or the people inhabiting that space. Even the most rewarding vocation can be frustrating even disappointing – not what we hoped it would be. But it is not the nature of the work itself that confers dignity rather but the manner in which we approach it.
Ultimately, any job, task, bit of work – however menial, routine, unpleasant – can be elevated by the spirit in which we perform it. It can become an act of worship – if done to the glory of God. C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “But the great thing is to cultivate one’s own garden, to do well the job which ones own natural capacities point out. Any honest workmanship can be done to the glory of God.”
Labor Day or any day – work or play – let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
God alone knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us if we offer our lives to serve Him!