FAITH column 26th March, 2017
Work is oft a ‘four-letter’ word, bemoaned, begrudged and belittled by those bored by their 9-5 routine. The TattsLotto marketing mantra, “Don’t Dream It, Do It!” appeals as an attractive alternative to this work enslavement, manifesting something for nothing as escape from reality.
Historically, the Protestant work ethic embodied economic reward for dedication, discipline and diligence at work, not appreciating that enjoyment of work was intrinsic for both physical and mental well-being.
Today the promise of pecuniary profit seems the only reason many people work at all, but the philosophical belief of nineteenth century writer and historian, Thomas Carlyle, who penned in 1843 that “work alone is noble” engenders reflection about work in a very different perspective. Or as the 30th US President, 1923-29, Calvin Coolidge considered: “work is not a curse…(but) the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilisation. Savages do not work.”
As political and public debate focuses on cuts to weekend penalty rates, proposals to work less and traditional Monday-Friday work redundant in our modern lifestyles, it is important to acknowledge that work is not a dirty word. Not subsuming workaholic or obsessive behaviours, meaningful work is significant for a strong sense of self, offering intellectual stimulation and spiritual solace beyond the focus of financial equilibrium.
Proverb 16:27-29 affirms “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop:..” imploring investment in work as the source of life; living to work, not working to live. This dictum may be decried by those whose work offers only payment for service rather than enriching experience.
Embracing work as reward in itself is testimony to Proverb 13:4 “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is rich supplied”, bank balance irrelevant.
The 21st century adage of a work/life balance makes the nature of work as personally positive and enjoyable apparently incidental to our lives, the two understood as disparate entities rather than entwined for our pleasure 24/7.
We not only seem to spend more time working now but will increasingly do so according to political policies about new age related pension eligibility. This behoves us to explore our understanding of what work means, applauding it as potentially life enhancing not just for profit to live ‘life’ at the end of a ‘working’ day or on retirement.
Changing employment opportunities and the technological revolution could inspire people to reappraise work with new faith, endowing it with exciting horizons to transcend work as just economic necessity and create it as an enlivening lifetime endeavour.