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A Christian Perspective on Work

All valid work can glorify God.

In her essay, “Why Work?”, Dorothy L. Sayers outlines a Biblical and Christian perspective on work and economics which focuses on doing all work in such a way as to glorify God.

Sayers assails the getting-and-spending mindset that motivates the work of many people, and the manipulative consumerism and waste that tend to accompany such a view of work. She insists that “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.”

Such an approach sees work as a vocation, a calling from God, which we undertake for the sake of the work, that we might serve our work so that it glorifies God in all aspects. She calls on the Church to embrace and teach this view of work: “It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or a woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work.” She laments the fact that the Church of her day (wartime Britain) had “lost all sense of the fact that the living and eternal truth is expressed in work only so far as that work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique. She has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred.”

Sayers explains that work does not exist to serve a community. Work undertaken in this way will always be subject to changing standards of workmanship, based on the needs and interests of the market. This, in turn, can affect not only the quality of workmanship but also the degree of satisfaction work should yield. Work done as a calling from God has its own standards, and it is the duty of workers to understand and work to the highest degree of excellence according to those standards. Then work will serve God’s glory and, in serving God, will meet the valid needs of a community. As she puts it, “If work is to find its right place in the world, it is the duty of the Church to see to it that the work serves God, and that the worker serves the work.”

“Why Work? Discovering Real Purpose, Peace, and Fulfillment at Word. A Christian Perspective” is available in PDF at various locations on the web. This is an excellent resource to include in a curriculum preparing young people for the workplace or helping workers discover more meaning and satisfaction in their work.


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