Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Work?

By Dorothy Sayers

The writer describes work "as a way of life, in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill it to the glory of God.  That it thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself...." People "should make things...for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing."   She argues "we should ask of an enterprise, not 'will it pay?' but 'is it good?'; of a man, not 'what does he make?' but 'what is his work worth?'; of goods, not 'Can we induce people to buy them?' but 'are they useful things well made?'; of employment, not 'how much a week?' but 'will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?'"  Her reasoning is that "work is the natural exercise and function of man" and as an offering to God, we should do our work well.

Sayers asks some very good questions.  I really like her comparison of work to a hobby because we do not gain monetary reward from doing it; it is simply the satisfaction and joy of doing it. 

"Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do." Because of this, we should a) not focus on our wages, as long as we receive enough to keep on working because our reward is found in working; b) do, and have others do, what job/work we are best suited to; c) not think of our work as something to get done so we can have "leisure" but to enjoy it; d) fight for the "quality of the work that we do" - is it honest, beautiful, or useful? 

I agree with Sayers on the purpose of work but as to wages, one must make sure they are making ends meet.  She had a different way of looking at leisure, that it should be "the period of changed rhythm that refreshed us for the delightful purpose of getting on with our work."  I always thought of people doing their jobs because it was their job, even if it was enjoyable.  I never thought of fighting to produce a good product, of going beyond doing your job well to making sure what you are doing is beneficial. 

Sayers argues that the Church should view work as sacred because people are called to serve God in their work, not to separate their work and their Christian lives.  In order to serve God, we first have to make sure our work is done well, "that work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique....The only Christian work is good work well done."  Because the work is an expression of a person, the work of a Christian will "naturally be turned to Christian ends." 

One must have integrity with their work.  God wants us to be faithful, and this is one way of doing it.  I'm not sure if I agree with the last sentence of the previous paragraph because sometimes a Christian's work, though it is done with good intentions, can lead to bad results, or un-Christian results.  If they forget to take some things into consideration, it can mislead people or have bad results. 

Lastly, Sayers argues that we should serve God before serving the community.  So in our work, we have to serve it, not the community or else you be distracted by questioning what others think of your work, you might think people owe you for your work, and you will only serve the community's wants, which is always changing, instead of doing good work. 

This relates back to "Learning in War-Time" where Lewis talks about learning as our duty.  Here, our job, our work, is our duty to God.  Plantinga, in his chapter "Vocation" also emphasizes the idea of finding what God has called you to, and doing the best job you can.  Also, in "The Weight of Glory", Lewis says "if God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself" (work meaning each person).  One still has to remember that while you want to do your job well, you must not be so focused on it so you ignore other people or other responsibilities, other callings God has for you.

1 comment:

  1. Great connections to a bunch of other readings at the end. i also like how you mention the danger of being so focused on your work, however good, that it begins to cause other problems in your life, we must have been on the same wavelength when reading - great post!