William Stringfellow, Imposters of God: Inquiries into Favorite Idols – Part II

Work, what Stringfellow describes as ‘a worship of death disguised as an ethic of justification for men’ (p. 26), is the subject of Chapter Three, which is a reflection on Galatians 6:7–8. Of work he writes:

No form of idolatry is more cynically practiced or more empirically corrupted, though perhaps none is so clothed in romantic shibboleth. None is more alien to biblical insight either. In such societies, no favorite idol is more blatantly a symbol of death than the ethic of work, and no popular idolatry is more poignantly a worship of death than the activity called work. The myth on which the worship of work is based is that in the occupation of work itself – in the mere doing of it – as well as in the products of work or in the rewards of work, a man’s existence is morally vindicated. Work is the way, it is supposed, that a man proves his virtue. Work is beheld as intrinsically worthwhile, and most especially so if it enhances a person’s wealth, influence, or reputation. Immortality is even attributed to some men because their work has been remembered after they have died (usually because the dead have left a large estate or endowment or some similar monument), and the patent incredibility of such assertions is seldom recognized and never ridiculed. (pp. 23–4)

Only in Christ and in the justification that takes place in Christ’s person, is work ‘redeemed from idolatry’ as the workers come to realise the freedom from the power of death given by the affirmation of life as a gift. Then alone might work become ‘a celebration and use of that freedom’ (p. 28).

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