90-Day Goal: Day 66: Work is Our Dignity

Will Mancini
March 9, 2021

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a powerful speech in support of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike on March 18, 1968, only two weeks before he was assassinated. He said,

“You are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

All labor has dignity. When someone loses their job or is out of work they often describe a feeling of being without value or losing their dignity. What is the relationship between work and dignity? By definition it’s a sense of pride in oneself or state of honor worthy or respect.

Dr. King’s namesake, Martin Luther, helped to uphold the dignity of work during his time. Prior to the Reformation, vocation referred specifically to church-related callings like serving as a priest or monk or nun. Luther recaptured this word and used it instead to refer to every calling a Christian might legitimately fulfill: cobbler, farmer, baker, blacksmith, wife, mother, civil servant, and so on. 

One could receive this as the position of a disgruntled ex-monk to attach the Church and its teaching. But it was deeply theological to Luther. The cobbler’s work was just as valuable as the priest’s because justification, or salvation, was received by faith alone and not by the work they did each day. 

A sinner did not experience God’s grace only by mystical contemplation or religious activity. Therefore all people and all the work we do is valuable to God.

Tip 66: Work is Our Dignity.

As we discussed yesterday, we are designed to work. God works and creates us to partner with him in the work of creation and recreation. When we are unable to work we are outside of God’s best intention for us as partners and friends. We lose a little bit of ourselves that aches to bring value, express creativity and be to provide for both ourselves and those we love.

Please send me your questions, challenges, and suggestions as we continue in the 90-Day Goal Together. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing the journey with you. 

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Will Mancini

Co-Founder. Will is a pastor who became a full-time vision coach to ministry leaders early in his vocational journey. He loves to design process and tools to produce stunning clarity and break-thru the new normal. He is the founder of Auxano, a nationally based, non-profit church consulting group and the author of Church Unique and God Dreams.