Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the eve of a new job

"Work plunges men into the world of things.  The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the 'it'; and this new encounter frees him for objectivity; for the 'it'-world is only an instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking.  The work of the world can be done only where a person forgets himself, where he loses himself in a cause, in reality, the task, the 'it.'  In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus for him the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh.  The passions of the flesh die in the world of things.  But this can happen only where the Christian breaks through the 'it' to the 'Thou,' which is God, who bids him work and makes that work a means of liberation from himself.

"The work does not cease to be work; on the contrary, the hardness and rigor of labor is really sought only by the one who knows what it does for hm.  The continuing struggle with the 'it' remains.  But at the same time the break-through is made; the unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day is discovered; for to find, back of the 'it' of the day's work, the 'Thou,' which is God, is what Paul calls 'praying without ceasing' (1 Thess. 5:17).  Thus the prayer of the Christian reaches beyond its set time and extends into the heart of his work.  It includes the whole day, and in doing so, it does not hinder the work; it promotes it, affirms it, and lends it meaning and joy.  Thus every word, every work, every labor of the Christian becomes a prayer; not in the unreal sense of a constant turning away from the task that must be done, but in a real breaking through the hard 'it' to the gracious Thou.  'Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus' (Col. 3:17).

"Then from this achieved unity of the day the whole day acquires an order and a discipline.  These must be sought and found in the morning prayer and in work they will be maintained.  The prayer of the morning will determine the day.  Wasted time, which we are ashamed of, temptations that beset us, weakness and listlessness in our work, disorder and indiscipline in our thinking and our relations with people very frequently have their cause in neglect of the morning prayer.  The organization and distribution of our time will be better for having been rooted in prayer.  The temptations which the working day brings with it will be overcome by this break-through to God.  Decisions which our work demands will be simpler and easier when they are made, not in the fear of men, but solely in the presence of God.  'Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men' (Col. 3:23).  Even routine mechanical work will be performed more patiently when it is done with the knowledge of God and His command.  Our strength and energy for work increase when we have prayed God to give us the strength we need for our daily work."

Bonhoeffer, Life Together