I have an interesting relationship to work. I was raised in the midwest (North Dakota to be precise) with a farmer grandpa on one side and a retired farm equipment dealer on the other. I remember learning to use a push broom. My dad showed me the right way. Brush, brush, stamp, stamp, the broom and then do it again. Not only did the dirt need to be removed from the floor, every two strokes you needed to beat it out of the broom itself, to show that dirt you meant business, presumably.
My grandpa and great uncle were reputed to have groomed their lawns with combs, they were so tidy and orderly. Grandpa saved everything, but he also organized it. If he needed a knob, he had a drawer in his shop where he had saved medium sized knobs, and he would choose among them for the perfect one for his project. When he had spare time he built organizing solutions. There was one corner of the shop that had it’s own little loft with bins for saved parts. The wooden bins were neatly constructed and varnished, along with the ladder/stairs and railings.
All of this to say that working hard is a core value ingrained in me from birth. And I think that is a good thing. Seeing opportunities to work as privileges to be embraced, and knowing the satisfaction that comes from leaning into a difficult task are a good start on life, for sure. In fact I probably think of my work ethic too highly, and am to proud of those examples of how it shows up in my life. I know that sometimes the work ethic has shamed and guilted me, when I’m not busy enough in my business, or successful enough to really have a load of work to lean into. Sometimes it surprises me how much value is connected to productive busy-ness. If I’m “busy” in something vaguely productive I am a good enough person, if I am not productive, I’m a deficient and dysfunctional member of my family or community.
So what is the responsible, balanced, and biblical perspective on work? I think it does have to start with that determination to work diligently and intelligently at whatever you do. But at least as important is Sabbath, the regular reminder that the results are bigger than our efforts, and that even God rested from His work. Profitable work is something we should see as a gift, but we should not measure our value by our successes or by the results of our labor. God puts Adam in the garden to tend it, but Adam doesn’t make the trees grow or product fruit. He’s a steward of a system that is bigger than himself and his efforts. That is the reality of the world we all live in. And that can really be very reassuring. Keep going, the better things are just ahead.