Love and WorkBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Here is an unforgettable integrity sentence from St. Paul: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:2-3).
Paul matches faith, hope, and love—key words of the Christian gospel—with work, labor, and endurance. “Work” is the Greek word erg, with which Paul urges us to make an event of our faith. “Endurance” is upomeno—to hang in there and to hang on; Paul matches endurance to hope. The middle word that he ties to love is kapos—Greek for “labor with sweat,” the no-easy-way of hard work.
What does Paul want us to know from this hard work advice? When I reflect on the fourth Commandment, “Six days thou shalt labor . . . ,” it seems he is saying that for love to happen it needs six days out of seven as just plain hard work.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with the wranglers in charge of the horses at one of the InterVarsity Ranch camps in Alberta, Canada. We talked about the horses and Alberta’s cold winter weather. I observed, “You keep horses in barns during the winter months, don’t you?”
The wranglers enjoyed the next few minutes telling me that, quite to the contrary, the horses stayed outside during winter. “We have trees on the range where they keep out of the worst wind.”
Amazed, I followed my first question with what I thought was a reasonable second: “But you don’t ride them in the winter do you?”
They were also cheered by this question as they answered me that the horses loved to be ridden in the winter at below-zero temperatures. One final sentence really struck me. “Of course, after every ride it is very important to walk them around and completely wipe them down so their sweat doesn’t chill them.”
Right then I realized that wrangling horses at 30 degrees below zero is hard work, and not everyone is up to it. In fact, all work is hard some time. Nevertheless, if it is honest work, it is good. “Sweat is one thing money can’t buy.”
Hard work enables us to develop our full stride as human beings. Through work, a young man or woman develops his or her particular skills and talents. Work helps us feel good about ourselves, not only about our hearts, but our hands, not only about what we think and feel, but what we do and can make.
There is no easy way to love and to grow in our love of God or of the people in our lives, and that is because the gospel’s three grand themes—faith, hope, and love—are not sentiments or feelings of temporary affection or inclination. All three are made of tougher stuff. St. Paul has it right: love takes work, and in that “labor of love,” we catch our stride.