July 14, 2008

Is Caregiving Work?

Category: Theology - Pastoral :: Permalink

One of the helpful fruits of Andi Ashworth’s Real Love for Real Life is that it challenges us to think more biblically about what “work” is and what we mean when we speak of a “vocation.”  All too often, it seems, we think of work as something that takes place in public or something that we do in order to earn a living or something productive. 

Even if we’re not so foolish as to think that men who go off to the job site work and women who stay at home with the kids don’t, we may still think that taking flowers to an elderly lady in a nursing home or playing with our children or spending time with a friend isn’t really work.  “I have work to do,” we say, and off we go to our chores.  Or we feel guilty because we spent the afternoon helping our daughter put together a puzzle — as if playing with our children isn’t part of raising them and as if raising them isn’t one of the most important “jobs” we have. 

Because it doesn’t feel like work to us or perhaps because we know that people in the world around us don’t regard caregiving as work, especially when it’s fun, we often don’t either.  The result may be that people who invest their lives in raising their children or giving time and presence and care to others feel as if — or are treated as if — they aren’t really productive members of society, as if they don’t really have important vocations but are rather on a sort of permanent vacation.

Ashworth writes:

As the custodian of a theology of work, the Church has often missed its opportunity to encourage caregiving as a legitimate vocation, one that has an essential place in God’s kingdom.  God calls his people to labor in a great variety of settings.  A view of work that only values what is paid or visible to the public reflects a small and incomplete understanding of all that God has given us to do.  When even the Church fails to make the connection that caring for people takes thought, creativity, time, effort, and hard work, it becomes obvious how much society’s ways of thinking have seeped into our own.  We are embracing a diminished meaning of work and vocation rather than the biblical meaning God offers us (p. 95).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:54 pm | Discuss (0)

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