Can you tell the difference between canned soup and homemade soup? The difference is, in part, the love (or lack of it) that goes into creation of the soup. Even vegetarians know of the alleged therapeutic value of homemade chicken soul to “cure” the common cold. The therapeutic value of homemade soup “proves” that the attitude we have toward our work change the results of our work. If you see your job (from making soup to driving a truck) as a labor of love, then love will be a part of the result. And a job done with love will often result in a more loving worker.
But many people dislike their jobs (duh!). The writer of Ecclesiastes said with exasperation,“Utterly meaningless! Everything meaningless!… My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor… I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun…” Many people feel the answer to hating your job is to get a new one. Perhaps. Another option is to look first for sacredness and vitality in your present occupation. Truck drivers, waiters, surgeons, carpenters, makers of soup ~ all can be doing God’s work. The Apostle Paul was a tent-maker. Jesus was a carpenter. Albert Schweitzer was a physician. You may be a stay-at-home Mom. All of these “jobs” may rewards you spiritually, if not financially. The writer, Goethe, states, “It is not doing the thing which we like to do, but liking to do the thing which we have to do, that makes the difference.”
People often feel “stuck” for years in a job that pays okay but is not spiritually rewarding. They stay for pretty obvious reasons, such as feeding the kids and having access to health insurance. But even in such circumstances, a good bottom line and beginning point with which to begin each work day is asking, “How may I be useful? What will make me feel spiritually rewarded? What am I willing to do to assure that my contributions will my labor beneficial to others?”
But no job needs to be completely unfulfilling if you cultivate a spiritual perspective on all that you do. Whatever you do for a job can be part of fulfilling a ministry. Many people I know have searched diligently for meaning and spirituality in such things as digging ditches. So they cultivated a fulfilling service in volunteering as such “ministry” as hospital volunteer, hospice worker, advocate for homeless persons, and answering phones at a domestic violence hotline. A good starting place for each day is asking, “How may I be of use? What am I willing to do to make my life more spiritually rewarding? What am I willing to do to make the world a slightly better place as a result of my having been here?” Happy Labor of Love Day!
Dwight Lee Wolter is the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.