“The pursuit of our own happiness where it does not infringe on the rights of others, has nothing evil in it, but is approved by every impartial mind.” Archibald Alexander*

Sometimes I get envious of painters, plumbers, landscapers, carpenters and others who get to work with their hands and have something to show for it at the end of every day, or at least every week.

What do I and other “knowledge workers” have to show for all our reading, thinking, and typing?

Virtual and Hidden

Most of it is “virtual” – words that are hidden inside computers and servers: in files, documents, reports, spreadsheets, and so on. But there’s not a lot of physicality to this.

Or of we’re in ministry, the impact of our work is primarily in the heart, the hidden person, that we often never hear about or that may take a long time to produce obvious change.

Faith not Frustration

One answer to this sense of futility is more faith, to believe that God will bless the work we have done even if we don’t see its impact immediately or obviously. 

But we’re still human, we still have a basic human need to see some fruit, some result, something to show for all the hours and hours in the office at the screen.

Dirty Hands

I hope this isn’t too unspiritual, but when I feel I’ve got little or nothing to show for a semester’s work – how do you measure whether Hebrew exegesis lectures really worked? – I cut the grass, paint a room, or go and work on my new deck. I get my muscles sore and hands dirty, basically.

And, strangely, that physical work has also motivated, inspired, and energized me to do more knowledge work too.

Maybe, some days, the Apostle Paul also got a greater sense of accomplishment gluing and stitching tents together than gluing and stitching ripped churches together.

“We labor, working with our own hands.” (1 Cor. 4:12)

Archibald Alexander, Outlines Of Moral Science (Philadelphia: Charles Scribner, 1852), 164-165.

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