…Do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23
I’ve always loved those two Bible verses. The latter more than the first. Ecclesiastes can be a bleak book–it reflects King Solomon’s (if Solomon is actually its author) ultimate falling away from God.
Therefore, I feel it too often reads more like the life of an unbeliever (‘meaningless’!). Which can be a wonderful example and lesson of ‘what not to do’ (and believe). In comparison to someone who relies fully on God and knows that all we do for the Lord is NOT futile and pointless, but will last and/or be rewarded in the life to come, if not this one.
Ecclesiastes captivated me in my youth. These days I prefer the philosophy and life lessons in the ‘study to show yourself approved’, ‘let us not grow weary of doing good’, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’…. ‘Jesus is coming soon and so is your reward’ (that one was paraphrased!) messages scattered throughout the New Testament Epistles.
Since the pandemic hit last March, I’ve added the following verse, also about ‘work’, to my list of favorites:
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. 1 Thessalonians 4:12.
This verse was reflective of the vocational climate in my childhood. Were it not for the rampant emotional and physical abuse, the pornography exposures, and the whitewashed Christian veneer hiding the sexual abuse in my family, it would have been a great childhood. Honestly.
I grew up with a strong Middle American work ethic at a time when farm folks still had a measure of real economic independence. As Thessalonians encourages, most farmers I knew did NOT depend on others. They were self sufficient and admired for their character traits. Though they were often broke and/or in debt–they frequently helped one another out with their work –and they didn’t have the current yokes and collusions with government and big agri-business, on which they have now become quite dependent.
Therefore I grew up like everyone around me: suspicious of government interventions and corporate America. I stayed busy doing chores, working with my hands, learning my way around a pigpen, a cattle yard, an equipment shop, and a grain field. And I had plenty of time to read challenging things which were far above my young head (our Television was fuzzy and rarely on). We were also, for the most part, a great deal poorer than people living and working on the Corporate America Coasts.
I eyed visitors who came from the cities, with their fancy cars and clothes, with awe and curiosity. As well as a painful awareness that I was poor and backwards, with bad clothing and shoes.
The farm programs, government interventions, and involvement of Con-Agra, which swept in in the 1990’s, brought a decline in work ethic, the removal of the general wariness of government and corporations, and much nicer clothes and cars to the farmsteads around my childhood home.
Just the way I see it. Others might disagree.
These days we have oodles of thriving boutiques and home decor stores in my Middle American mid-sized town. Much of the style borders on the boujee to me. Nevertheless, when traveling or receiving visitors from elsewhere, it’s obvious that the middle income Midwesterner enjoys what once only belonged on the coasts, and now is hard to find there. Unfortunately: that old midwestern work ethic and wariness of government seems to be disappearing along with the poverty.
I suspect the rise of internet, cable/ satellite TV, video games, and smart phones also took a ding to the once prevalent: we-are-poor-but-at-least-we-know-how-to-work culture.
We do retain some ethical holdover from former eras though. I suspect that is why big companies will still ‘head hunt’ for young adults from the Midwest.
I didn’t always enjoy the hard work parts of my childhood. In part because too many of the good formative experiences were sandwiched between abusive and unhealthy behaviors.
Plus, that level of physical work is an acquired taste. The current popularity of gym memberships shows how many people do realize the value of sweat equity and physical activity. And God bless you if you just love the gym. I don’t love it. Plus, I would rather NOT pay someone else to vacuum my house and scrub my floors while I pay a gym to use a machine on which I’m not accomplishing a single thing at all… when my arms won’t really know the difference between that machine or a mop handle and then at the end of the day I can see that I actually did something productive…there’s my childhood talking again.
At one time I ran as far from my past as I could. Except then God stuck me right back in a very similar place to that in which I was born. I did the human thing and just rebelled against the place itself, in my own heart and mind.
It was easy to label all the hard workers around me as ‘workaholics’. People with energy were often just a reminder of how bleak things were for me as a child. And since I knew that being poor sucked, what was wrong with taking some government stimulus and bailout and disaster relief program money anyway? It’s better than remaining in poverty for the sake of dignity. Poverty is traumatic in and of itself and lacks any kind of dignity — I think I have written posts on that somewhere on this blog; they may be set to private now though.
I ventured into all the world’s wisdom, and the pointlessness of life and the downsides of hard work, more than once. When I got physically and emotionally sick, I also pretty much checked out of my social and my work life as well. I even tried being lazy, intentionally, to try and heal from my own presumed workaholism and stress effects.
I judged others who retained their hard work ethics. Ducking out of my former hard work lifestyle seemed to help me physically so maybe everyone just needed more vacation and meditative time… Until I woke up one day and realized I was too young to act like I’m eighty.
Turns out my brain remained as active as my body always wanted to be. And that even when my body is in pain; not moving it at all will only make the pain worse.
So now that I have worked through much of the child abuse, I am sifting out a distaste for the ‘place’ and personality in which it occurred from the actual abuse itself. In so doing, and by pushing myself physically far more than I am even comfortable doing some days–I am also now feeling my body heal to the point of being able to be very active again.
Perhaps that is a factor in why and how I have returned to an appreciation of many aspects of my own trauma filled childhood.
I am glad that I was raised amongst mostly-poor farm folk where the barns for the animals were often nicer and more costly than the farmhouse. Oh and barns used to trigger me, too. They were actually the ‘stuff of nightmares’ for most of my life.
But enjoyment and appreciation of the place, and the landscape is being restored to me now. I haven’t had a scary barn dream in a few years. I find myself eyeing the old barns and farmsteads with love; when we go for long country drives. I stop to take photos often.
Though it took me a while to reconcile it all, I am realizing that people who work extra hard and/or who truly enjoy their work are not automatically ‘workaholics’, and should not be labeled and judged as such.
Now that I’m more active again myself: I’m once again in danger of judging others as being lazy, though. There’s always some sin crouching at the door…
The way I see it, those who have stayed active even in the midst of health and other crises are probably going to be the same personality types who will continue to spread the gospel and hold steadfast to Jesus; even in times of great peril, confusion, temptation, and persecution. Therefore, getting one’s work ethic back in order is pretty important.
Since I no longer spend hours a day in therapy work, navel gazing and trying to heal from past trauma, my brain is once again picking up on what’s happening around me and trying to grasp many things which remain ‘far above my head’. Meanwhile, my yard and home and business is showing the recent influx of care and work. I am able to sleep soundly and restoratively at night, after a day spent working with my hands–just as I did growing up.
Now for the real point of this essay: as I have personally gotten back in touch with the childhood work ethic of my past in 2020: I have been noticing and grappling with the ironic and nonsensical system of beliefs rising up within my still-calls-itself-hardworking, ‘Trump country’ community; during Covid19.
We’ve had the opposite of an economic fall out, here, it seems–and that boon started long before 2020. A lot of farm people are restoring those old barns mentioned above, which now sit empty of animals; next to their fully loaded million dollar equipment sheds. A lot of the hard work does go on, even amidst the wealth, though. Therefore, it’s the source of the wealth which troubles me most.
I want to believe that our local economic escape in 2020 was from a good work ethic combined with our spread out and sparse population, a different, self-responsible attitude about risk and one’s own health, and many businesses courageously remaining open throughout the chaos. However, I suspect that our booming economy is actually far more from a combination of the socialistic actions of the government pouring money into our economy and our own greed in making sure we get our own share of that American Pie. As well as general self-interest and a stubborn refusal to conform, or truly care about, one’s neighbor above one’s self.
The government has poured out money into Agriculture-based hands for several decades now. Yet in the last several elections Socialism was frequently used as a pejorative by those same folks. And the idea was touted, (from both sides), that we had to get involved in politics to ‘save our democracy.’ As if democracy and capitalism and that kind of freedom is even a thing anymore?
To quote and to paraphrase some very wise and prescient things I read somewhere else (and am feeling too lazy to go search for it-how’s that for work ethic-LOL?)
It’s only socialism when someone else is receiving free government handouts. When I’m receiving it; it’s still capitalism!
Government handouts are now labeled ‘stimulus packages’ or ‘disaster payments’ or ‘relief packages’ in order to hide the fact that they are, in essence, socialism.
So let’s take a look at the socialistic things which swept into America under other names and let’s also note who was in charge when it happened.
The second George Bush signed the law which bailed out banks and big industry BEFORE Obama took office. Which was one of the many reasons I was able to easily remove myself from ‘being political’ after I felt the Lord chastening me for my heart and mind (and literal) involvement in that corrupted and worldly realm–back in 2008-2009.
This year, while he was still president (and by the way some of my friends think he IS going to actually remain president too) ‘Capitalism Loving’ (?) Trump signed into law and then extended the PPP Small Business Administration program and oversaw what came to be known as CoronaCash (for farmers) and that’s not even mentioning the stimulus package where everyone under a certain income level received a check ‘from the government.’
Still think Bernie Sanders is the only Socialist in Washington? Even he is taking some heat for voting for the PPP program by his own supporters; since it’s proven to be so corrupt.
BUT these things were all good, and needed, right?
No one wants to see a small business fail, right?
Or, perhaps hiding behind a cry of ‘we have to help the small businesses’ is a clever cover for more corruption?
And perhaps behind the socialism lies something with an even harder bite to it.
I don’t know the answers to the above questions. I just know that it seems few are even asking the questions, or pausing to think what we are really colluding with and accepting when taking ‘free money’ from the government. Perhaps we are all too busy to think—busy shopping and filling our barns and homes with more things; all thanks to the influx of Corona Cash. Meanwhile Revelation urges us to come out of her my people so that you do not partake of her sins or share in her plagues.
When a nearby farmer, who got both corona cash and a PPP loan… complained about the young adults voting for Biden because they just wanted their student loans forgiven… Can you believe their sense of entitlement? Don’t they understand that socialism doesn’t work! Without capitalism, our country will be toast! — I tried not to snort out loud as he drove away in a shiny new pickup with a Trump bumper sticker.
I realize I have a super power nose that often picks up scents before others can smell them.
But at what point is everyone else going to smell America’s toast burning?