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Driving trucks, especially those of the flatbed variety, is grueling work. It pays well but you earn every penny you make. Some days, it doesn’t seem worth it; that is until I remind myself of a couple of central realities concerning work.
In any kind of work, there are those times when our work becomes so difficult and monotonous that we’re not sure if we can make it through another day. There are also those of us who even lack the motivation to get out of mother’s basement at age thirty and do better than a minimum wage job.
What’s the answer?
Is it Bernie Sander’s free college, free healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage that will cure that? Is it tax cuts so we can take a bit more money to the bank from our paycheck? Is it to check out and go join a commune? Is it a socialist utopia where a uniform standard of living is guaranteed by the combined (and coerced) efforts of everyone?
As Christians, we ought to know that the answer is none of the above.
While I’m encouraged by pay raises and tax cuts, neither is going to get me by on a sweltering summer day when I’m throwing 150-pound tarps on ten-foot-tall lumber loads. Nor is fantasizing about sitting in the shade sipping margaritas while robots do all my work for me.
What motivates a proper work ethic is two-fold: the first is priorities and second is our attitude toward work. And, no, Bernie and his “bros” don’t need to come along and hand me an unearned pay increase.
Over the course of my life, I have finally learned that we humans do not work for money nor do we work because of how fulfilling any given job might be. If you’re only working for the money, you’ll burn out in a heartbeat. If you’re hoping to find work that will be an ultimate source of meaning in your life – something that you’d do for free if it was possible – you are also barking up the wrong tree.
I like that movie Bruce Almighty where “God” says this to “Bruce:” “People underestimate the value of good ol’ manual labor. There’s freedom in it. Some of the happiest people on earth go home stinking to high heaven.”
God gave us work as a gift right from the beginning. When we begin to look at work as a gift to our neighbors and not as a burden to be endured, then even when we’re stuck digging ditches for a time, we can find true meaning to our work. We can stop looking at it as some bare-minimum task that we have to do (and we can stop hoping that Bernie will come along and force our employers to overpay us for it, too). We can start to seek to be successful in our work – whatever that may be. We shouldn’t want someone to come along and hand everything to us, and we should realize that if someone were to do that, it would fundamentally harm-not enhance-the meaningfulness our work can bring.
Instead of seeking after a specific “fulfillment” in our work, we should realize that our work is of ultimate significance already. The day the light bulb came on for me is when I finally understood that my goal with work was not simply money or emotional fulfillment, but it was first and foremost a fundamental act of love toward my wife and children as well as to my church family.
What greater purpose could we aspire to but to help those around us create and sustain their faith? Whether we realize it or not, our work does that. My children are able to go to schools that encourage them in their faith. My wife has the freedom to spend her hours cultivating her faith and the faith of the children. All of the members of my family are able to volunteer our money and time in aid to our local church because of the work I do.
The last thing I want or need is for Bernie Sanders or anyone else to come along and take all of that from me.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel very sorry for those who, for whatever reason, can’t earn an income above the minimum wage. The reason I feel bad for them is not because of their financial struggles so much, but because they are leading a type of purposeless life. It’s not the money that’s the issue. The problem is that they have missed the part of work that grants them the privilege of contributing above and beyond surviving; this is a gift from God.
Don’t be that guy that’s hoping to have everything handed to you. Decide that with God’s help, you are going to rediscover this wonderful truth. And then, get to work!
Matthew Garnett is the husband of Jennifer, the father of two children, a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, truck driver, and host of the “In Layman’s Terms” broadcast.