But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
--Matthew 4:4 NRSV
The cover story on this week’s Time is “The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work.” It details how the dramatic changes brought on by the pandemic, such as working from home, flexible schedules, time spent with family, etc., have caused a widespread rethinking of work. Several stories in the article reveal how the pandemic is causing people to change how they work and even their occupations. One man mentioned in the story states an old adage which may have never been truer: “We aren’t supposed to live to work. We’re supposed to work to live.”
For most of human existence and even in most cases today, people didn’t have a choice regarding their profession, who they work for and the conditions they work under. For those in our culture who are fortunate enough to have choices, it is worth spending time in spiritual consideration of why one works, what one does at work and whether it makes any positive difference in our world? Considering that most of us who work spend more time in our jobs than with our families, these are important questions to consider.
In his book The Magnificent Defeat, published in 1966, Frederick Buechner wrote profound words about the Christian faith and what it means for a Christian’s employment. He wrote these words 55 years ago, but the feel like they could have been written in 2021.
THE WORLD IS FULL of people who seem to have listened to the wrong voice and are now engaged in life-work in which they find no pleasure or purpose and who run the risk of suddenly realizing someday that they have spent the only years that they are ever going to get in this world doing something which could not matter less to themselves or to anyone else. This does not mean, of course, people who are doing work that from the outside looks unglamorous and hum-drum, because obviously such work as that may be a crucial form of service and deeply creative. But it means people who are doing work that seems simply irrelevant not only to the great human needs and issues of our time but also to their own need to grow and develop as humans. . .
There is also the moment in the Gospels where Jesus is portrayed as going into the wilderness for forty days and nights and being tempted there by the devil. And one of the ways that the devil tempts him is to wait until Jesus is very hungry from fasting and then to suggest that he simply turn the stones into bread and eat. Jesus answers, "Man shall not live by bread alone,“ and this just happens to be, among other things, true, and very close to the same truth that [a person] comes to when he realizes too late that he was not made to live on status and salary alone but that something crucially important was missing from his life . . .
There is nothing moralistic or sentimental about this truth. It means for us simply that we must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is that we do not. We have only a life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us.
I pray that during this time when we are emerging from the pandemic you will choose wisely the work you are doing during your one and only life.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851