“Man hath his daily work of body or mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways.”
“He that hath lent you talents hath also said, ‘Occupy till I come!’ Your strength is a talent, your parts are talents, and so is your time. How is it that ye stand all day idle?… Your trade is your proper province.” –Richard Steele
The group that most influenced early America probably is the most maligned today. The Puritans brought the concept of a “City on a Hill” to this country, and it is still true. It might not refer to being a “Light unto the World” but the world continues to look at America. They watch to see what America will do in certain situations.
Another thing they brought with them to America was the burning desire to please God. They passed the first public school law, the Ole Deluder Satan Act (how about that title?) requiring schools so children would be taught to read and would not be deluded or tricked by Satan. They also brought what is referred to as the Puritan Work Ethic.
I found an article in my files written by Leland Ryken, taken from “Christianity Today” about the Puritan Work Ethic. In light of the times in which we live; the thoughts of entitlement, the bouncing around from one job to another, there is a need for this “Ethic” to rebound. Ryken asserts, “It judges every honorable job to be of intrinsic value, and integrates every vocation with a Christian’s spiritual life. It makes every job consequential by regarding it as the arena for glorifying and obeying God and for expressing love (through service) to a neighbor.”
1) The Puritans declared the sanctity of all honorable work.
“For the Puritans, all of life was God’s. Their goal was to integrate their daily work with their religious devotion to God.” How would work today, in fact society, change if this was the maxim for life in the work force today?
2) God calls every person to his or her vocation.
I have talked with hundreds of students and have asked the question when they go to college or join the work force, “Is that what God wants for your life? Most reply with a shrug, as if it doesn’t matter. But it is vital to one’s life and well-being. To follow God’s will for your life is to obey God. A person who realizes that his work is of God understands that the worker is a steward who serves God. “Work, in this view, ceases to be impersonal.” There is so much talk about a “relationship versus religion” today, then it should behoove the individual to work for God in whatever occupation they are in. “Work becomes one of the means by which a person lives out his or her personal relationship to God.”
3) This leads to a true estimate of the motivation and goals of work.
Why are we on this earth? “To serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings.” (William Perkins) When God blesses with wealth, what then is the responsibility of that person? It is to serve man in the best way possible. That is not to say, that money should be thrown out, but it is the responsible use of money/wealth for the good of mankind. Ryken states, “Their ideals were obedience to God, service to humanity, and reliance on God’s grace.”
4) They bequeathed a sense of moderation in work.
There must be a middle position between the extremes of laziness and the slavish addiction to work. “The goal of the Puritans was moderation. To work with zeal and yet not give one’s soul to his or her work was what they strove for.” (Ryken) I know of a man who became a multi-millionaire by the time he was in his thirties, only to lose his family and his children to drugs. Work was his God, but do not be a sloth either, there is a time for work.