What does love have to do with work?
If we like to do something, we are more inclined to do it. People who love playing the piano are more inclined to put in the effort to practice in order to be a good piano player. People who love to do a sport, whether a team sport like basketball, or an individual sport like golf, are more willing to do the hard work necessary to excel.
This also is true for our work. When I graduated from college, I went to work for a large international oil company in their marketing department. After six months of going through their training program, I came to realize that I didn’t like the kind of work I would be doing and decided to resign and go to law school. The company suggested that I work in the credit department which required no travel. This then allowed me to go to law school in an evening program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
While in law school a law clerk position to one of the company attorneys opened up and I spent the next couple of years serving in that capacity. After graduation I was offered a staff attorney position and worked in the company’s legal department for most of my 38 year career. During this entire time I was blessed with interesting and challenging work. I loved my work and as a result, was motivated to work hard, often putting in long hours and seeking to be the best possible attorney I was capable of being.
St. Augustine has an interesting take on the end of John’s gospel where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him and then commands him to feed and take care of his sheep. Augustine observes that Jesus was asking Peter how much he loved him, and then gave him work to do; “for the greater one’s love is, the easier is the work.”
Jesus knew that the work he was giving Peter of heading up his church would be difficult, require great sacrifice and eventually lead to Peter being crucified according to church tradition. Only out of great love for Jesus and the Father, would Peter be able to do the work of feeding and taking care of God’s sheep.
God is the author of work. He put us in the garden of his creation “to work and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) He creates us with varied skills and abilities that enable us to do a vast array of tasks so that we may “take care of” and be good stewards of all the needs of creation. Our individual work serves as a thread in the larger fabric of civilization, each thread contributing to the strength of the whole cloth.
Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to demonstrate that love by following him and imitating him in our actions and words. (Mark 12:30; Luke 9:23) His love and grace lighten the burden of our work.
The more we love God, the easier the task. The more we love God, the more grace to complete the work.