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Work, Blasphemy And Reverence

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.–Proverbs 18:9

To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomsoever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God.

—Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community

In this society it is very easy for us to forget that we work with the work of God.  Mass-production, either in agriculture or manufacturing, can tempt us to see the world God created as an abstract set of ‘resources’ which we can use and use up at our convenience.  Dealing with people en masse, without knowing them as individuals, as many politicians, advertisers, administrators of large groups and many others do, can tempt us to see people as numbers to be swayed and manipulated rather than children of God whose meaning and purpose cannot be fully known by us.

This is theologically dangerous because it tempts us to use things as though we were masters rather than stewards, to treat people as though they were subjects rather than brothers and sisters, to arrogate some part of God’s power without being able to take on God’s love and wisdom.  It is also practically destructive. It blinds us to the importance of those qualities in people and in the natural world which are not immediately useful to us.  It  blinds us to the dangerous qualities in people and in the natural world which may be loosed by our manipulations.

As Christian homesteaders we have the opportunity to work attentively, on a small scale, in a way that reminds us constantly that we work with God’s work.  As we farm, garden, hunt, gather, spin and build we work, not with abstract ‘natural resources’, but with the particular gifts of the land on which we live.  As we try to build local community we work, not with abstract masses of people, but with our own particular neighbors with all their challenges and gifts. This work makes it easier for us to remember that we are not gods but God’s people, God’s fellow workers.

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