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Labor Day

"Labor Day" Continued...

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, newly renovated but still with fountains and waterfalls beyond the outfield fence, is another great ballpark-and we again met great WORLD readers, including oncologist David Lee. His wife Ellie explained that in his work with cancer-stricken people he asks about their spiritual history-and often God gives him the chance to talk with them about his faith and to encourage them to re-explore their own. He's been able to point people, some at the end of their lives, back to a relationship with God.

One reason Dr. Lee, in practice since 1988, can do that is because he went solo for 16 years, and now has just a partner and a partner-to-be. He hasn't had a platoon of officials overseeing his every move. He wonders whether an Obamacare future will make things difficult. Like many small businessmen he is concerned about tax increases and an economic environment that discourages entrepreneurship.

Lee's work, of course, is intrinsically important. What about those who are not in daily contact with life or death decisions? What are the satisfactions in repairing toilets rather than people, or in taking on a cancerous workplace environment?

It struck me that Christians often have four levels of understanding about work. Level 1 sees work as something that gets us our daily bread but has little value beyond that. Level 2 also grudgingly supports work because cash thus acquired can go to support ministries and missions, with some becoming an inheritance to pass on to children. Level 3 sees work as an opportunity to witness to co-workers.

Those are all good reasons for work, but shouldn't we also push on to a level 4, in which work is more than a means to an end? Since we spend more of our waking time in our workplaces than anywhere else, shouldn't those be places where individuals gain dignity, grasp freedom, and employ creativity?

When Susan and I began our driving trip on the New Jersey turnpike, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel's "America," first recorded in 1968. The last stanza is filled with angst: "'Kathy, I'm lost,' I said, though I knew she was sleeping/ I'm empty and aching and I don't know why/ Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike/ They've all gone to look for America." Why are so many Americans empty and aching?

I know why-or I think I do. Many of us have turned away from God, and in doing so many have suffered the desacralization of work. In terms less grand, that means the loss of a sense of purpose and calling. This is not a new phenomenon: The elder brother in the prodigal son parable thinks of work as tedious obligation, and the younger brother avoids work until necessity forces him into feeding pigs. But unless we develop a sound theology of work, millions of us will be empty and aching from 9 to 5.
To hear Marvin Olasky discuss this topic further click here.
Email Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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