Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Yahweh and Meaningful Work

If, for the Greeks, work had no meaning -- it was the task of the slave -- for the Hebrew community things were different. The creation stories note that God called upon the first humans to till the land -- before the fall. As Jurgen Moltmann points out, it was only after the fall that work became a curse.

Work, in the Hebrew tradition, was a reflection of God's own work of creation. The seven days -- six days of work, and a day of rest -- emphasize this connection.

Moltmann writes:

We can characterize the Old Testament conception of work as follows: Here work is neither cursed as slavery nor sanctified as service to God. Work and virtue, work and freedom, work and meaning are neither theoretically nor practically separated, as in the slave holding society. They are rather brought into correspondence. The commandment to work and rest is based on its correspondence with the creating and resting of the Lord. In work and rest human beings, in their way, take part in the creative world process and in the joy of the Creator. In contrast to the ancient dichotomies, this makes work itself meaningful. (Moltmann, On Human Dignity, Fortress, 1984, pp. 40-41).

That is a theological assessment, but the reality is that not all work is humane, or at least not all work situations are humane. So, how do we find ourselves in positions of experiencing meaningful work?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting topic. We live in a culture that puts incredible value on leisure. Retirement is the end game and a sign of success. If you listen closely to the ads, Morgan Stanley is your Jesus, your provider and comforter. Of course all of these ideas are not of the Lord and no where in the Bible will you find the word "retirement". In fact, Paul says the opposite by running the race well to the finish.