By Dean Fulks
There’s an old song from the West Virginia coal mines in the mid-1950’s called Sixteen Tons. The chorus says:
Movin’ 16 tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go:
I owe my soul to the company store.
Those lyrics reflect so much of what we still believe as Americans about work. Hints of regret and depression drip from each line. We work and ultimately don’t believe in WHAT we are doing, as much as HOW MUCH we are bringing home. Rare is the person who believes he or she is fairly compensated for their labor. The longer we work the more tied we are to the “company store.” We grow increasingly dependent on our employer in the latter years of work, because finding work is so much more difficult as we age.
Being an owner isn’t much better than being an employee. Most small business owners feel increasingly squeezed by taxes and increasing costs. The easy answer? Squeeze more work out of already unreliable employees, who are probably just going to move on at some point…leaving you to hire and train someone new.
Paul gives us a totally different view of work. Instead of relying on the company OR our employees for satisfaction, Paul calls us to rely on God. To do our work, as if we are working for God…because we are. In chapter 3, Paul says, “do your work heartily as for the Lord.” And when we do, it changes everything.
God’s presence gives everything in our lives meaning…we can do everything with Him and for Him. We do our work “heartily.” Ultimately, we do our work to please Him. God loves excellent work. He wants to do our work with us…if we are to spend twenty-five percent of our lives at work, God wants us to do it with Him. We don’t “owe our souls to the company store,” as Tennessee Ernie Ford sang. We owe our souls to the One who died in our place. Physical work is a gift…a joy that is from Him and to Him. That’s why we draw life from God and point others to Him.