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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Does Your Work Help Others or Harm Them?

Andre Yee raises some interesting issues about work as a calling over on his blog. (I'm a bit slow in responding, but better late than never.)

In the comments, he recasts Spurgeon's statement about "trades which are injurious to men's minds" in 21st century language: "whether it does good or harm to our fellow man."

Now, I don't think marketers, actors, or grocery managers who sell alcohol are immoral. I've just heard people call them immoral professions. I've also heard people throw such stones at public school teachers (really!), nuclear power, and businesses that they deem "too financially successful."

I like Andre's idea that our work must not do harm to others, but I wonder how much we are held responsible for the decisions of others to harm themselves with our work.

For example, Andre suggests that working as a bartender may be immoral. I can imagine seedy bars where that would definitely be the case. But what if I were a bartender at Chili's or some similar restaraunt? Does my specialization within the restaraunt make my work there inherently immoral?

Can someone mix margarita's for God? Can they brew beer for God? Can they ferment wine for God?

And more importantly, if they can't, then am I depending upon someone's immorality before I can order up a margarita?

These questions are rhetorical really. I think people can mix drinks for God. It's strange to say. And it's a job that would certainly require a high level of integrity, but it is conceivable to me.

(I should add a reminder here that my views on this blog are not the opinion of my employer or the websites that I edit. Whew. Had to get that off my chest.)

If I remember correctly, Jesus provided drinks on the house at a wedding where people were a little "beyond" (but not so much that they couldn't tell his wine was top quality! well, or the quality was so great it reached beyond their "beyond" :))
Great point! I know I struggled with that for awhile! I was taught some bizarre rationalization about wine having less alcohol back then. (Which raises the issue of why people couldn't taste the quality of the wine anymore...)

Thank goodness for my time in Germany. I learned to drink beer and coffee. Those were the only options. Beer in moderation, of course. Coffee in moderation? NEVER!
Andre's having trouble posting here because of blogger's beta problems. He emailed me this comment:

To be accurate, I said that being a bartender based on Spurgeon's measure is
questionable. I mean that in the truest sense - I'm not certain it's wrong, I
question if it would indeed pass Spurgeon's test of whether it's helpful or
injurious to others. Here's what else I said -
"I think I would consider a trade to be injurious to men's minds when the essence of
the work performed credibly is necessarily morally or ethically wrong. So being a
lawyer wouldn't be injurious since the work can be conducted in an ethical manner.
Being a burglar would be off limits since it is necessarily morally wrong." OK, now
that I've cleared my good name, I'm ready to run for public office. :-)


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