We North Americans are a spoiled lot as a whole. Most work cushy 40 hour per week jobs. We have decent houses, cheap food, plenty of entertainment (to the point of distraction), etc.
It’s killing us.
We need something to scare us or shake us up bad enough that we all become willing to work hard like it mattered. Alternatively, if we could all figure out what work really gives us joy, it would not be a burden to “work” hard and long. We as individuals and we as a country could do so much better. Work is presently viewed as a necessary evil. We try to minimize it and get out it at every opportunity. Many studies have shown that the average worker wastes 5-12 hours per week while “on the job”. This attitude about work is a lie. In reality, work is a blessing in the very real and literal sense of the word.
For a long time, I was always a bit worried about the 4th commandment. Paraphrased, it says that for six days of the week, we should labor, but on the seventh day, we should rest. My difficulty is that I was always worried about breaking the “rest” half of the equation. My day job is totally desk bound. So “rest” for me might mean nailing 2x4’s together so I can get off my butt, get some exercise and a little fresh air outside. Some branches of Christianity have very prescriptive and legalistic ideas about the observance of the Sabbath. I am sure they will frown on my view of restful Sunday activities. Oh well, I am not answerable to them, but only to my master.
Eventually, I realized that it’s a very individual thing. Think about the golf pro. He plays golf for a living. Do you think he wants to play golf on his Sabbath? Is that relaxing for him? What about the literature critic or the editor? Do you really think it is restful for them to read another book on Sunday? Maybe they want to get out and wash and wax their car and give their critical neural faculties the day off. But for the person who works at a detail shop who washes and waxes cars professionally, this would be the last thing they would want to do on their day off. I could give many other examples that illustrate that what is restful and even worshipful for me, might be work in the worst sense of the word for you.
The idea that recently got my attention, and the real focus of today’s post, is the fact that I had been ignoring half of the commandment for decades. Rest and worship are good and needful and commanded, but don’t forget that the first half of the command says, get off your ass and go do something useful and productive and WORK six days a week. Not 4.5 days, not 5 days, but six days you shall labor. There are numerous other references in scripture that say various un-pc things like, If you are able bodied, and you’re not working, you shouldn’t eat and, by implication, we should not and will not feed you either. Wow, when’s the last time you heard a sermon on that?
I’m totally convinced I could cure 2/3 of everything that’s wrong with North American culture if I could just get people to turn the TV off and work steadily, at something they love, six days a week. We wouldn’t be polluting our minds with a lot of the unhealthy garbage that one finds on the TV programming and the blasted ads. That’s big win number one.
Consider the current Wall Street financial meltdown as an example. It’s big, it’s bad, it’s ugly, it’s stupid, it was totally avoidable and it’s wrong on 10 different levels I’m sure. But how big is it, really? The level of hysteria and media screeching puts this at the same level as the Great Depression. PLEASE!!
The current number being thrown around is 700 billion dollars the taxpayers might lose. Together with the 300 billion they have already thrown down the rat hole, that makes a trillion dollars of your money and mine. They might get some of it back. They might even make a profit in the long run. All irrelevant to our discussion. For illustrative purposes, let’s suppose the government completely fritters away a trillion dollars of our tax money. What does that work out to per person?
That’s $1,000,000,000,000/300,000,000 people. Are you ready? That works out to $3,333.33 per person. Right, approximately 3,500 bucks for every man, woman and child in the United States. We will let the kiddies off and not force them to get paying jobs right now. But suppose all the rest of us, say, 200,000,000 (200 million) able bodies adults got part time jobs to pay this off immediately to prevent our economy from quitting in its tracks. Let’s see, that makes it an even five grand per able bodied adult. Let’s say we could all scratch up a part time job for ten hours a week and seven bucks an hour. $5,000/$7 = 714.3 hours. This entire, world economy stopping, great depression could be totally paid off and gone in 714/10hrs per week = 71 weeks. In 1.36 years, the whole thing would be a bad memory.
But no, that would be unpopular to take your medicine now and get it over with. We’re going to let the Federal Government administrate this to death for a decade or two and allow it to screw things up until our grandchildren have to deal with it. And really, it’s just an illustration of how powerful this concept is.
In conclusion, let me say that my day job takes up 50 hrs/wk, not counting transportation, etc. My biodiesel hobby takes another 5-6 hours per week. I heat my house with wood, so that sucks up another couple of hours per week all year long. I don’t have much spare time. But I do feel like I am obeying that fourth commandment, both the second half and the first half. I really feel that God is blessing my efforts.
I anticipate that the shop will be done in one year. So somehow, I have managed to build a structure the size of the average house, in my very limited “spare” time. It will add tens of thousands of dollars to the value of my property. It will give me decades of pleasure in the pursuit of my hobbies. It is a physical testament of what we could accomplish if we were motivated.
Collectively, we in North America could work veritable miracles if we just got off our duffs and did useful stuff, like we meant it, six days a week. Incomes would go up. Tax revenue would go up. The deficit (which threatens to kill this country and many others) would magically melt away. We would suddenly all have plenty of money to retire with dignity and without the need for government hand outs. We would have piles of cash to provide record breaking levels of charity. People would stare in open-mouthed wonder at the success of our nation.
All from simple obedience to the fourth commandment.
Of course, I am not endorsing work-a-holics, or people who worship their job more than their creator, or people who are obsessed with money, or people who neglect their family because they work too much. It’s all about balance.