Many Christian writings and teachings on the subject emphasize work as a manner in which we live out Christ’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). This mind-set of work as service to others does bring a powerful spiritual dimension to what we do.This hit home when I read it today, because it is a discussion Josh & I have been having lately. What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to work? Doing What? How do we find meaning in it? When Sayers says "Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God", I am challenged. Do I view or treat my work that way? What do I treat that way? Do I give enough attention to my responsibility to "make a good table"?
But Dorothy Sayers, a British novelist and brilliant theologian who was a friend of C.S. Lewis, argues that this approach to faith and work has got it all wrong. It’s not all about trying to serve others; in her essay “Why Work?” she says “the worker’s first duty is to serve the work.” Beyond exhorting a carpenter, for example, to live in a Christ-like way or to view his work as service to the those who will use his products, Sayers’ argues, “What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.”
Work is a gift God gave us when he made us (Genesis 2:15). Our creative impulse—our desire to make or do something and feel the final satisfaction that, yes, our work is very good—is a reflection of being made in the image of the Creator. It’s not just about bringing home the bacon or counting the hours ‘til we can get home to our “real life.” And it’s also not primarily about others.
Here’s the real thrust of Sayers’ idea: “Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God”.
"the thing one lives to do"
On Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership blog today, Kelli Trujillo discusses "Working to Serve or Serving the Work?":