Labors of Love
Labor Day returns! I’d be interested to know, of all American holidays, which is the least recognized and celebrated? Many people don’t have a good working knowledge of Labor Day history.
Our actual holiday of Labor Day has an interesting history. The Christian Post shared some details of this a year ago. The article provides a good refresher.
Christians are divided on whether labor unions should be viewed as favorable. History has shown that many improvements in the workplace have come about through both the awareness and pressure applied by labor unions. That’s the good side.
But unions have also been known to be corrupt. Greedy. And, at times, violent in their treatment of those who don’t share their agenda. It’s hard to endorse that kind of organized labor.
But my blog today has a different focus. I’m recommending reading a fairly lengthy opinion piece in the New York Times. It’s titled, “Rethinking Work.”
The story opens with the troubling reminder that “nine out of 10 workers spend half their waking lives doing things they don’t really want to do in places they don’t particularly want to be.”
The article states that it was “Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, who felt that people were naturally lazy and would work only for pay. ‘It is the interest of every man,’ he wrote in 1776 in The Wealth of Nations, ‘to live as much at his ease as he can.”’
That is a fairly brutal assessment that leaves me feeling parched for more meaningful work.
But it is why the Times opinion writer, Barry Schwartz, adds “Work is (still) structured on the assumption that we do it only because we have to. The call center employee is monitored to ensure that he ends each call quickly. The office worker’s keystrokes are overseen to guarantee productivity.”
There is, however, a different way to approach work. And it’s one of my favorite stories from this article:
About 15 years ago, the Yale organizational behavior professor Amy Wrzesniewski and colleagues studied custodians in a major academic hospital. Though the custodians’ official job duties never even mentioned other human beings, many of them viewed their work as including doing whatever they could to comfort patients and their families and to assist the professional staff members with patient care.
They would joke with patients, calm them down so that nurses could insert IVs, even dance for them. They would help family members of patients find their way around the hospital.
The custodians received no financial compensation for this “extra” work. But this aspect of the job, they said, was what got them out of bed every morning. “I enjoy entertaining the patients,” said one. “That’s what I enjoy the most.”
Now, while I can’t tell you these custodians are Christ followers, I can tell you that their attitude reflects the Godly command to all believers to work as if we are working for the Lord. Here’s the way the apostle Paul said it to the Ephesians:
“Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.”
– Ephesians 6: 5-8, The Message
Do that… and your soul should be able to transform any work into a form of service in the most positive of ways. You might even call your work… a labor of love.
And with that… hope you had a Happy Labor Day.
Originally posted on Mark Elfstrand’s Blog.
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