Your Work, Your Calling

Two weeks ago I told you that America is in trouble. Our products aren't working; our workers aren't producing. But I don't have to try to convince you. Just buy any American-made product, or observe any shop floor, where workers shuffle apathetically through their days. You'll soon see what I'm talking about. And yet we Americans are heirs to a different tradition--the Protestant work ethic. That ethic taught us that work is a gift from God. Something to be valued for its own sake. Something that reflects the nature of God Himself. But in our highly secularized society, there is no reason to work anymore besides personal gratification: We make more money to buy more toys. But simple pleasure wears thin after a while. People need a bigger reason to work; they need a sense of calling and purpose in their work lives. Can we still restore the Christian work ethic? I believe we can. And in our new book Why America Doesn't Work, Jack Eckerd and I discuss the ways it can be done. In our homes, we need to teach our children the value of work. American children are being spoiled rotten by parents who give them whatever they want. Those children will never learn the necessity of work. If your kids want $150 running shoes, give them jobs to do around the house so they can earn money and buy the shoes themselves. They'll value the shoes more that way. And maybe they'll even decide there are more valuable things they can do with money earned by hard work. What about the church? The church is the cradle of the work ethic--from the mandate to work given in paradise to Martin Luther's reformation of the church's view of labor. But when was the last time you heard the topic of work discussed from the pulpit? Why do we deliver sermon after sermon on things like chastity, prayer, and family life and neglect the activity that takes up 80 percent of our lives: our work? The church is the ideal place for discussion groups on the work ethic and what it means for our lives today. Then there's education. Talk to your school board. Tell them that if children don't learn to work hard in school, they'll never work hard on their jobs. Write to legislators. Tell them we can't afford to keep people idle on welfare or in prisons. But the real test of the work ethic is in whether we follow it in our own lives. If you run a business, are you paying your employees a fair wage? I knew one businessman overseas who became a believer. He began reading the book of Amos. The next Monday, he called his employees onto the shop floor. He told them he'd become a Christian and realized that he'd been unjust to them. He promptly raised their salaries 20 percent. We're not all in positions to make such sweeping changes. But what about the plumbers, the cab drivers, the baby sitters you pay every week? Do you treat them with the dignity they deserve as individuals created by God? Finally, do you give your own work the care it deserves? Whether you are an architect or an airline hostess, whether you are a school teacher or a Wall Street trader, remember one thing. Your work is your calling: Therefore work as one working for God, not for man.


Chuck Colson



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