How does this commercial make you feel? What do you think about it?
I’ve mulled this one over with a number of friends, and typically one of two responses arise. One affirms the commercial. Work hard! It’s the pathway to success, achievement, and fulfillment.
The other is usually some kind of shock or repulsion. People with this reaction are the folks who have worked hard, but haven’t moved upward. Others with this response have climbed to the top, or at least near enough to see that more hard work is all that awaits them. Still others have experienced the lives of those who have no choice but to work hard. I think of my friend Emmanuel, a high school student in Liberia. His daily routine: run to school, take a quick shower at the pump, learn and absorb in class, buy a cup of rice at the market, cook it, eat half, save the other half for breakfast, study, and sleep. That’s a hard day’s work.
Hard work is a virtue for sure, but does not necessarily correlate with accomplishment, success, or even being able to meet one’s own basic human needs. Of course, these do not come without hard work. They also don’t typically come without some degree of privilege. I think this is the component the “work hard” community often misses.
For a long time, I thought my academic success was due to my hard work. Later, I realized that I actually worked a lot less than most of my peers! I definitely put in the effort, but the gifts God gave me allowed me to excel. Now when people discover I studied engineering and praise my smarts, I have to be honest and say I’m just gifted and would fail miserably in other fields!
But there is another component we should also consider as people of faith:
He said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’
Zechariah 4:6 NRSV
Zerubbabel, governor of Judah after the exile, oversaw the rebuilding of the Temple, which was gutted and destroyed when Israel was conquered. Rebuilding such a significant edifice was a tremendous task, compounded by neighboring nations’ threats and by Israel’s pursuit of “the good life.” Hard work was needed, but so was a reliance on the power of God’s Spirit to have the right heart attitude, sufficient strength, and the willpower to stand against the naysayers. Anything of lasting value is done in community and is done by the power of God’s Spirit.
Here is my challenge: work in earnest, be cognizant of privilege, and enter into the work of the Lord. This is the pathway to success, achievement, and fulfillment before God. At the end of the day, I hope we stand before Jesus and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
So – what kind of crazy, driven, hard-workin’ believer are you going to be?
General Board of Church and Society, Washington DC
US-2 Class of 2013-2015