Sunday’s Day of Work

Posted on March 11, 2013


Sunday is of course not a day of work. It is the day of the week that most Christian people devote to rest and the worship of God. At least that’s the theory.

Lots of people are not in church. They play golf, go hunting, watch TV, do the laundry, work at their places of work (stores, factories, mines), and so skip the rest and worship routine.

The Sunday in this story is however not the day of the week, but a fellow who works for us whose name happens to be Domingo, which is Sunday in English.

Domingo is a gardener who works for us on the weekends when not working for a gardening and yard company. Domingo likes to work.

He usually arrives around 6 a.m. and works until 4 p.m. That’s ten hours for the math challenged.

He doesn’t take breaks although I supply him with money and force him to go get breakfast and lunch and give him hot coffee from my pot in my warm kitchen on cold mornings.

Work for Domingo is a necessity and a privilege. So we get along pretty well because I feel the same way. Besides, we both speak Spanish and so communicate on that level as well. He goes to a small Spanish-speaking Pentecostal church on Saturday evenings so we have that in common too, although I go to a church on Sundays that is English-speaking.

I also happen to be working on a book on what the Bible has to say about work and wealth, and while taking a look at this subject, Domingo popped into our lives.

Work, in case some of you have been on an extra-terrestrial voyage or living in the backcountry of Tibet or Bolivia recently, is a hot topic in today’s world. It is packaged slightly differently, but when we talk about entitlements and the like we are basically talking about our attitudes toward work, and life in general with respect to work.

So what does the Bible say about work? Scripture is the most important source on the subject since Christianity forms the culture of our country. Like it or not, our values have been formed by both Christianity and by work.

The Apostle Paul made it perfectly clear why we work, and got straight to the point:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

The more poetic passages in the Old Testament were clear on the relationship between work and poverty, although couching the message—typically—in a slightly more metaphorical form.

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare. (Proverbs 20:13)

And for those who love to toil and work and accumulate, Ecclesiastes gives you some comfort food.

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20)

In our own history, the greatest of the Protestants of colonial America, the Puritans, struggled with some theological issues which included the theme of work.

The Puritans thoroughly believed in predestination, or the teaching that some were selected, or elected, by God for salvation, and, by definition, some weren’t.

Since no one could know exactly if he was saved, the Puritans worked fast and furious in colonial America, largely New England, to demonstrate or prove somehow that they were among the elect.

It was thought that one of the principal ways one recognized one was blessed by God, and among the chosen, was if one had good fortune and accumulated wealth. So, working hard and accumulating wealth (one of the contributing streams to capitalism) became a cornerstone of American life.

It still is, if I extrapolate from Domingo’s work ethic. But, while he isn’t an American, he is living the American dream.

What Domingo does not expect, nor did the Puritans, nor did the Apostle Paul, is to be given something for nothing.

In fact, in the Bible poverty is often viewed as a curse from God, being out of his favor. This is a hard truth for anyone expecting society to take care of them.

Work is both a privilege and a responsibility. It goes together with freedom, another one of this country’s foundation blocks, but that for another time.

Work and freedom make it a blessing to live here. Sometimes I have to be reminded of what made this country what it is by getting out in the yard with Domingo and working up a good sweat.

We are both looking forward to spring and the planting season. I think I can grow pretty good tomatoes, beans and squashes, but I have a hunch I have much to learn from Domingo. He’s already thinking chilis which will be a new addition to the fare.

This OpEd published in Tuscaloosa News March 10, 2013 with a different title: Work is a Hot Topic That Goes Back to Ancient Times.