“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11
For many years we enjoyed the luxury of employing a housekeeper who came to our home each week to give it a thorough cleaning, as well as a lawn service to maintain our yard. However, when we moved into our new home in the suburbs, we decided we should try doing that work ourselves. Surprisingly, what we soon discovered was the pleasure we found in those rather mundane chores, not to mention the benefits it has had on our health and wellbeing, even our marriage partnership. “It’s my turn to mow!” “No, it’s my turn,” we teasingly argue each week.
As I began to consider an exit strategy for myself from the corporate world after a long career there, of major concern was finding other meaningful work. In giving up those big paychecks, even temporarily, would my life still have purpose as I assumed it had before? It was an adult version of the question “what are you going to do when you grow up?”
Indeed, it is a question that applies to adults as well as children, according William J. Bennett in his book The Book of Virtues. For, as he claims, it is a question about work. “What is your work in the world going to be? What will be your works?” He goes on to explain, “These are not fundamentally questions about jobs and pay, but questions about life. Work is applied effort; it is whatever we put ourselves into, whatever we expend our energy on for the sake of accomplishing or achieving something. Work in this fundamental sense is not what we do for a living but what we do with our living.”
That may explain our re-discovered joy, value and meaning in doing common household chores together, quiet works done with our own hands, yet without pay or fanfare. The rewards they do provide, though, can be far richer than any paycheck, starting with the simple rewards of accomplishment and achievement. Less obvious is the influence we may be having on others – neighbors or grandchildren for example. Maybe that was the Apostle Paul’s intention when he wrote to the Thessalonians. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind you own business and to work with your hands . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” It may be the best work any of us ever do.