Is work merely a means to an end?
Yes, we work to meet personal and societal needs. We work for food and shelter and health care, to save for the future, to contribute to our communities. Yet work is more than a means to an end.
Work itself can be good. Work can be meaningful, delightful, inspiring. It's important to affirm the inherent value of work, not to skip over it for something we deem more valuable — or more spiritual.
A friend and I had a conversation about "tentmaking," the work of the Apostle Paul. The term is used by Christians to signify what one does for employment in order to sustain the more critical endeavor of ministry. Yet I wonder, did Paul love tentmaking? Did he like the smell of the materials? Did he take pleasure in a finely crafted product? Did he enjoy engaging customers?
I hope so, because I do.
For a host of reasons our dominant culture devalues work. And we internalize that. People of faith who affirm the work of a Creator who said the work is good often regard work as a curse rather than a blessing. We separate work and meaning. We put up with work to get to meaning.
It is true that sometimes work is not meaningful, not pleasurable. Sometimes we're just "working for the weekend."
Yet when we value the work itself, we affirm something integral to being human: our creative capacity. We can make things. We can fix things. We can find meaning in what we do with our hands and with our hearts and minds.
Yes, the labor of our days is good. So let us not skip over it but bless it.
And give thanks for it.