God created man in His image. And He created us to work. We see that even from the first story of the first man. When Adam was placed in the garden, even before the Fall, he had tasks to do. He tended the garden. He named and cared for the animals. He wasn’t lazing about all day. He was working…but the work was easy and rewarding. Then, of course, sin entered the world, and with it, work became heavy and hard and not always rewarding.
Still, we do it. We do it because it’s part of our makeup. And we rant a bit about those who refuse to do it, right? I remember complaints about “kids today don’t want to work” from the day when I was a kid and I’m still hearing it now. Frankly, you can hear it from books and texts a hundred years old too, or two hundred, or three. There have always been those who don’t want to work–and they are always looked down upon by those who do. Work ethic is recognized as a virtue.
Think about that, though. A virtue is more than doing something because we have to or should. A virtue is when we long to do right, not just because it’s right, but because it draws us closer to God. Closer to each other. And yes–work can and does absolutely do that too. Because whether we’re tending a field or garden or writing books or filing papers in an office, whether we’re tending the sick or faulty mechanical things or answering phones, work is creative. Sustaining. Part of our nature. We need to work…and we need to reap the fruits of our labor.
This, too, is how God made us. He never intended that we sweat and toil for nothing. He meant us to be able to look with satisfaction on what we’ve accomplished–just like He did. When He finished His mighty act, He sat back and said, “This is good.”
We all want to be able to do that. We want to know that we’ve accomplished something good…and we want others to recognize that too. We want to know that by our efforts, our families are fed and clothed and society is a little better. We want to know that it means something.
As a writer–and as someone whose family survives on what I bring in from my writing and design work–I don’t spend my days in a field. But I do spend 10 hours a day at my desk, toiling with fingers on keyboard. I have perpetual back and neck pain, frequent headaches. It’s work. I love it…but it’s work. And that work becomes all the harder when society enters a phase of devaluing it. When a writer hears readers say they won’t pay more than a couple dollars for a book it took them six months to write, that hurts.
When a farmer is told that their produce is overpriced, or when government regulations tell them they can’t sell it, that hurts. When someone who has worked twenty years at a railroad is laid off and fired because the location is downsizing, that hurts. When a pastor’s church is shut down…when a doctor is sued for something that went wrong through no fault of their own…when a lawyer is called nasty names even though they work for others all day…it hurts.
We need to work. We need to reap the fruits of our labor. We need our work to be appreciated.
Here’s the thing though–we can’t ever make someone else appreciate what we’re doing. I can’t make readers agree with the new CEO of Barnes and Noble and say, “Books are not overpriced.” I can’t force anyone to consider the dozens of people who spent countless hours on each book that’s produced. I can’t make anyone do the math of hours put in by all those people, from author to editor to printer to accountant, and admit that $18.99 is actually pretty reasonable. I can’t even say, “Continue to undervalue us and we’re simply all going to go out of business and then you won’t have stories to read anymore.” Because you will. There’s a glut. There are plenty of self-publishers with lower overhead willing to sell for a couple bucks. I can’t say any of that with any insistence, because no one will listen.
But here’s what I can do: I can value YOU.
I can value the work you put in day after day. I can praise you for the beautiful house you keep. The wonderful meals you cook. The love with which your raise your kids. I can thank you for answering the phone at the office. For handling all the appointments. For welcoming me with a smile when I come in, anxious, before my appointment. I can see a train running along the tracks and breathe a prayer of gratitude for the hundreds of people whose efforts allow it to do so, so that the goods I consider valuable can make it to the stores. I can smile at the truck drivers who do the same, instead of grumbling at how I hate to pass them on the highway because they’re big and scary. I can appreciate the produce in my stores or farmer’s market or direct-from-farm shed, knowing that the five dollars they ask me for that watermelon represents months of planting and tending and care. I can offer a kind word to the cashier. I can thank the customer service person. I can appreciate the wisdom of the doctor. The study of the lawyer. The yearning of the teacher to impart knowledge.
None of us can make someone value US–but we can value THEM. And if we all focus on what work others are doing instead of what they aren’t…if we stop complaining about prices and lazy people and how it would be so different if we ran things…if we tend the dreams of others and dare to dream ourselves…well, then, I think we’re even more like Adam than we think. Because then, the garden we’re tending isn’t just the plants and animals. It’s the people around us.
And I know we’ll see a far different, even more rewarding fruit. Because when we value each other, the reward is love. Life. Eternity.
When we value each other, we truly live in the image of God…because He values us all as His beloved.