Moving Beyond Johnny Paycheck – Part 2

So in the comments of yesterday’s post, Miller brought up the fact that folks have been complaining about their jobs for centuries, evidence of which is the über-popular Johnny Paycheck song, “Take This Job and Shove It.” (side note: I didn’t realize that David Allen Coe actually wrote and recorded the song first, but Paycheck’s cover was more memorable)

The Christian approaches the subject of work a little differently than Paycheck or Coe, however, even though their approach is quite hilarious. For the Christian, every subject becomes a theological one. We seek to discover — together, if possible — how our faith in and participation with a God who is establishing a “new reality” here on Earth informs every aspect of our life, not least our “work lives.”

“Work life.” Hmmmm. Therein lies one of the fundamental problems, I fear. Our language reveals a lot, no? We live divided, dualistic lives. We have our “work life.” We have our “church life.” We have our “home life.” Just Google “work-life balance” sometime and inventory the results …

We’ll get to the rest of the extremely thoughtful questions regarding a theology of work before too long, but let’s begin with the “work-life” question:

Does our parsing of “work” from the rest of our lives (spiritual, family, mission, social…) affect the way we view it, especially from a spiritual perspective?  If so, how?  If this is a bad thing, how do we stop doing it?


13 responses to this post.

  1. Isn’t this the same problem we have with our spiritual lives? The bigger problem is that when we split our lives into all these sections, we lose the “seek first the kingdom” part. The spiritual gets a couple of hours a week while work and others things get most of the time.

    My question is, how do we make everything spiritual? Or can we?

    Even though Ephesians 6:7 was written to slaves, how does it apply to this discussion? “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”


  2. Posted by Steve on August 21, 2007 at 9:19 am

    “Ora est Laboria”

    “Work is prayer”

    Terry, indeed, the effects of dualism — the dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular” — touches most areas of our lives and is detrimental to our modeling God’s kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

    I think a starting point for your great question — “how do we make everything spiritual” — is in the spiritual disciplines. But I am decidedly bad at this, probably because I have lived divided for so long. The idea of “work is prayer” is foreign to my rational, compartmentalized, dualistic nature.

    How do I move forward?


  3. i think the reason for the dividedness is that work for us is about the money…

    shouldn’t it be about life?

    if we pursue the thing we were made for, that thing that reveals the glory God placed in us, isn’t that the same as seeking first the kingdom and righteousness of God?

    and if we’re doing that hasn’t he promised to take care of us?

    it seems like we run amuck when we decide that there is a better way than the one God points us to…

    i have a friend who is making this choice today. will he choose life or “financial security?” the thing is that “financial security” is a myth.

    i hope he makes the right choice


  4. Posted by Lynn Holt on August 22, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Our work, no matter what it is, can bring glory to God and it is a part of our Christian living. It is not a compartment of our day. If we view our work as “working for the Lord”, and “working with all our might”, then it is our ministry whether we are a clerk or a teacher. The end result of working is also noble – providing for our family, contributing to the good of humankind, being a Christian presence in a non-Christian atmosphere.

    Now, having said that, I think it would be tragic to look back over our lives and say that we hated our work or felt unfulfilled in our work. We can do our best work if it utilizes our talents and we’re happy. There may be no job on earth in which we can be totally fulfilled and happy, thus our attitude toward that job must be adjusted.


  5. On a semi related topic…

    My wife wrote a recent post here that might add to this discussion.


  6. Agent – Your wife’s post speaks certainly does add to this discussion. The example of working moms is a perfect example of how many — though not all — of us choose the pulls and tugs of our culture over the pulls and tugs of the Lover (Agent Wife’s wonderful term for God) and his provision.

    I’d love to hear from more people on this subject, though.

    Why do we create a false dichotomy between our “secular job” and our identity as spiritual beings?

    Miller suggests we do this because of our seeking after money / provision / wealth.

    A few of you have said some good things about what we can do to combat this: make everything spiritual, make “work” “prayer,” find work that utilizes our talents and creativity…

    What else? What do you think?


  7. Posted by Deb on August 23, 2007 at 6:33 am

    Read more comments in Agent Wife’s discussion. 🙂


  8. Steve, I agree with you concerning the spiritual disciplines. Not a strong point for me either, but I’m working on them. I wrote an article which may add to this discussion. You can read it here.

    I appreciated Agent Wife’s article. My wife chose to stay at home with our children rather than work. (No judgment on others) At this point in our lives, we don’t have cable for our TV. We use an old antenna and get 3 channels. Some our friends and relatives can’t understand how we survive. But, my son and daughter-in-law don’t have a TV because it is a distraction. I’m not trying to point out a right or wrong in this, only that there are so many things in our society that we take for granted as something we “need.” Who says that we need all this stuff?

    There is a good little book by Brother Lawrence called “The Practice of the Presence of God.” His idea was that you can be in God’s presence in everything you do. He worked in a kitchen and found God there, even while he was washing dishes.


  9. Posted by Steve on August 23, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Good mention on “The Practice of the Presence of God,” Terry. That’s a great book, and quite relevant to this discussion.


  10. Last night the wife & I were studying over this: John 6:25-29.

    V 27 Jesus said, “Don’t work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life…”

    And yet, the people he addressed still didn’t get it (V 28).

    Of course it’s not evil or ungodly to be employed and/or earn a living somehow. But why do we exist? What is our life for? How is god demonstrated through it, etc. What is our ID?

    And during this study, I realized that the events of my day yesterday kind of showed some “not working for food”. I sacrificed 2 hours pay of my job to “rent” the lawn equipment from my boss to do my yard and my elderly friend’s yard across the street (my lawn equipment has been busted for over a year).

    This month, hours at my tree trimming job have been very sparse. I need all the hours I can get (or so I thought).

    I didn’t realize it at the time, but here I was giving up two hours wages to mow a one-legged old man’s yard that doesn’t pay jack.

    It doesn’t make sense in the natural, but I’m sure all will work out in the long haul.


  11. Posted by Sara on August 24, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I have not posted here before but enjoy reading. I was asked to teach a bible class at our church and started looking at Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness. This book addresses that we often live a divided life and that it is a failure of human wholeness. I am just getting into it but has been really interesting thus far. It challenges me as I think about ways that we live without being connected to our soul.


  12. Posted by Steve on August 24, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Sara – Glad you recognized that my phrase, “a divided life”, comes from Palmer. He’s done some great thinking and writing in this area, as you know. Thanks so much for reading and commenting … hope you’ll do more of the latter!


    NOTE TO ALL READERS: Is anyone having trouble viewing the comments page in this new page template? My parents said the line on the left side of the comments blocks out the name of the commenter and the left side of the comment. Is this happening to anyone else?


  13. No problem with the template as far as I can see


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