Joy at Work
God on Monday
‘If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15.10-11).
Welcome to the seventeenth God on Monday reflection on ‘purpose’!
Many of the things that bring me joy probably do the same for you - a baby’s smile, the smell of fresh bread, a cool breeze on a hot day. Other joys we may not share – spiced ginger tea, very dark chocolate (85-90% cocoa), and Mozart’s Bassoon concerto.
I am using the term ‘joy’ here because I’m talking about enjoyment. But it may be more accurate to talk of pleasure. In a letter by C.S. Lewis, written in 1945 but only discovered in 2014, he writes, ‘real joy jumps under one's ribs and tickles down one's back and makes one forget meals. (…) One second of joy is worth twelve hours of pleasure’. He then adds in a postscript: ‘Don’t you know the disappointment when you expected joy from a piece of music and get only pleasure: Like finding Leah when you thought you’d married Rachel!’
I take from this letter, and from Lewis' memoir Surprised by Joy, that pleasure is good but joy is of a much higher order. What is exciting, then, about the verses of scripture cited above, is that Christ’s purpose for people is joy – ‘complete’ joy. By keeping his commandments, humans get to experience pure joy.
Can such joy be experienced in the contemporary workplace? As we saw in an earlier God on Monday reflection on Law of Love, the way to keep Christ’s commandments is the way of love. When managers love their staff, argues business leader Dennis Bakke, they give them freedom to use their God-given talents for the benefit of society, which in turn produces workplaces filled with joy. On the basis of this philosophy, designed to challenge shareholder primacy, this former farm boy built his energy company into a multinational, employing 27,000 people in 27 countries.
We have it on Christ’s authority that joy is the purpose of human life. With his joy at work within us, we will have joy at work. Perhaps this is why, when C.S. Lewis reflected on his experience of intense delight, awakening, and longing that began as a child, he came to regard joy as the unifying theme of his life: ‘In a sense’, he wrote, ‘the central story of my life is about nothing else’. Lewis had found what on earth he was here for.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business
The citation at the end of this reflection is from C.S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt, 1955), p. 17.