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A Four-Lettered Word?
“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.
 Colossians 3:23
Back to work, after the three-day Labor Day weekend. This always seems the hardest workday of the year because it is the last of the summer triumvirate of holidays: Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend. It also signifies the “official” end of summer, even though in this part of the world, the weather may fail to acknowledge the changing of these seasons! The long days of summer are winding down as the “fall” schedule and events begin.
When did “work” become a four-lettered word? Actually, there are those who claim “work” has become our national religion. A couple of years ago, Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic that “workism” has grown as traditional faith in America has declined. He defined “workism” as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.” This, he writes later, results in a “mismatch between expectations and reality [and] is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery.”[1]
The vast majority of humans who have lived on this planet have had to work merely to survive. Only the elite landowners have ever had a sense of security about their next meal. Automation and education have expanded economic opportunities for many. And instead of producing more leisure time, more time to spend with those they love, people continue to work more and more hours as their identities and purposes become wrapped up by what they do rather than who they are.
We have forgotten that our core identities are the beloved children of God. It is given to us at our birth, as we emerge from our mothers’ wombs as unique manifestations of those who are made in the image of God. And it is confirmed at our baptisms as we seek to follow and serve Christ. Jesus Himself was baptized and entered into the wilderness only to emerge grounded in His identity as God’s son and in His vocation, that is, God’s call on His life. As Jesus said, “‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.’” John 4:34
What if “work” was whatever God gives us to do to serve Him? To serve our families? To serve our communities, both our Christian community and the broader community? Then what we do would be our vocation, our calling from God, whether our work is inside the home or outside the home, or even if our working days are behind us. If we look at our work in this manner, then whatever we do would be life-giving to us, to our families and to our communities. Our work might still be demanding, but we would not be diminished by it or serve it rather than God.

[1] Derek Thompson, “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable,” The Atlantic, February 24, 2019, Accessed August 25, 2021.
The Rev. Sharron L. Cox
Associate for Outreach, Pastoral Care and Women's Ministries
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