A Biblical View of Work

By Sam Ingalls (Connecticut)

Coming into Summit Semester, there was a lot I wasn’t aware the class would be doing, such as adventures, trips, solitude times, and work crews. My first thought when I heard that we’d be doing a work crew for a few hours every Tuesday and Friday was, “whoa, whoa, hold on… I did not sign up for this.”

“whoa, whoa, hold on… I did not sign up for this.”

How selfish is that? I pulled up to a gorgeous lodge in a breathtaking location, and the moment I was told I was going to be required to do some physical labor I immediately forgot about the incredible opportunity I’d been given to be here.

Instead, my heart immediately became selfish and unwilling to set aside my desires for just a few hours a week. I’m embarrassed to admit that now, but that was, unfortunately, the case.

On the day of the first work crew, I begrudgingly put on my messy clothes and prepared myself for a lot of mental complaining. Everyone gathered in the small living room area around our wood stove, and I was expecting to just be told where to go and what to do, but instead, we began with a short lesson instead. Terry, our property manager, began by reading out of a book (which we’ve continued to dig into since) called Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller.

Our lesson that day, and the lessons since then have revolved around how God created humans to work and how it is a biblical command. We also discussed a few short questions before finally being split into our crews for the day. To begin work crews with a lesson instead of just moving straight into physical labor was refreshing, and it redirected my complaining heart and gave me something new to think about while I worked. We then split into groups of four and seven people and were directed to all sorts of different tasks for the next three hours.

My first crew was building wooden stair treads in our workshop with Terry. I was nervous that I would somehow be unqualified to really be any help, and I thought my limited experience would hinder the crew. I wasn’t the only one to think this way. However, Terry was extremely patient, explained the whole process clearly and step by step, and directed us until we felt comfortable with it. It was empowering to watch that crew of only women (besides Terry) learn to handle heavy pieces of wood and build these large treads, with little to no previous experience.

I walked away that day with some new skills and confidence, and a closer friendship with the people I’d been with.

Every workday since then I have seen skills improving and felt myself stretching to do things that either make me uncomfortable or that I’m not confident in, and yet every time, through patient instruction and a little tough love from our leaders, I accomplish what I’ve been assigned to do. Also, continuing the discussion about biblical principles concerning work before crews has been key in realigning my heart, especially towards jobs that I may not want to do.

The other topics we’ve discussed during lessons before crews include the sanctity of work, how work is dignified, how a proper attitude towards work can change how you approach it in your everyday life, and many others.

I never realized there was so much to biblically understand about working, and I have often in the past carried a negative attitude towards my job or even just housework because it felt like an obligation and simply a chore.

Really, I should have been thankful for the simple fact that I even had a job, or that I was created by God to be capable of handling hard things, or that I get the privilege of representing God to whomever I was interacting with at my job that day. Along with that, being required to work with people you wouldn’t ordinarily pair up with is rewarding in the resulting conversation and comradery that results from being alongside one another through labor.

It’s been so rewarding being at Summit Semester because they are so focused on making every part of day to day life an intentional reflection of what it means to live well, and how God created us to live, whether it’s in the classroom, work crews, mealtimes, or adventures. Even on the rough days, work crews have continued to be one of the best parts of Summit Semester.