Continuing my studies in the thought of Dorothy Sayers, she never ceases to amaze me at her very common-sense approach to defending the faith. Though described as a reluctant prophet by her biographer, she was fearless in what she had to say about the state of the Church during her life. Her thinking on what it takes to have a Christian society involves not only an outspoken conviction on doctrinal truths, but a view of work that more closely aligns with the teachings of Scripture. She wrote,
Nothing has so deeply discredited the Christian Church as her squalid submission to the economic theory of society…I believe, however, that there is a Christian doctrine of work, very closely related to the doctrines of creative energy of God and the divine image in man. The modern tendency seems to be to identify work with gainful employment; and this is, I maintain, the essential heresy at the back of the great economic fallacy which allows wheat and coffee to be burnt and fish to be used for manure while whole populations stand in need of food. The fallacy being that work is not an expression of man’s creative energy in the service of Society, but only something he does in order to obtain money and leisure…
If man’s fulfillment of his nature is to be found in the full expression of his divine creativeness, then we urgently need a Christian doctrine of work, which shall provide, not only for proper conditions of employment, but also that the work shall be such as a man may do with his whole heart, and that he shall do it for the very work’s sake.
This view of work, tied directly to the Imago Dei, is one which gives meaning to the mundane and taps directly into the creative passions of individuals. It also provides a moral framework for those who may not be creatively employed, but certainly gainfully employed in a position that doesn’t quite offer a sense of fulfillment. We all know what those jobs are like, and it’s Sayers’ goal to help us see how to work Christianly in those as well.
It’s been the case that Christians sometimes buy into the sacred-secular dichotomy by viewing non-ministry work as unimportant to the spiritual life of individuals, families, and the church. Of course, when pressed, we say otherwise, but clearly we’ve stopped short—in Sayers’ time and in our own—to develop a theology of work that allows Christians and non-Christians to see our faith as worldview that permeates all areas of our life. Having a clearly articulated theology of work provides another means for showing the internal consistency of Christianity in that what we do and how we do it really does matter to God, not just our Bible studies, Sunday sermons and family devotionals.
Sayers mentions briefly the “economic fallacy which allows wheat and coffee…and fish…” to be destroyed when we continue to have among us people who live in poverty and suffer without some of these essential resources. The idea that these problems result from a “heretical” view of work is persuasive because if work is primarily about the next paycheck leading merely to a life of leisure, then the propensity for moral blinders is real. If our motivation is primarily for those things that fulfill the urges of the flesh, then even our method of doing work will be affected. This leaves open the possibility that others will be harmed.
A faith worth defending is one that offers an overarching explanation for every corner and crevice of our earthly lives. Having in mind that ancient truth that we’ve been created in the image of God should stir our creative energies to work and to work well so that the world can also see that God has called us to imitate him in not only the moral, but the creative as well. As Christians in an increasingly post-Christian culture, we need a proactive approach aimed at re-creating a very broken world that has abandoned the God who is our source of understanding work…and rest.