The Soul of Work

An excerpt from Eberhard Arnold's 1920 essay on work that leads to community: “Love is work, work of muscle and mind, heart and soul.”

The only work a person can do with his or her whole soul comes from love. And there is no love that does not get to work. Love is work, work of muscle and mind, heart and soul. This kingdom of love, therefore, this kingdom of the church and of the coming rule of God, must be a kingdom of work. Work – truly ­unselfish work – animated by the spirit of brotherhood will be the mark of the future, the character of the humankind to be. Where all our senses are consecrated and all our tools dedicated; where everything physical becomes holy and all activity in manual work a joy; where there is zest, the bubbling vigor of ­enthusiasm in work, there is the kingdom of the future!

Humans have been appointed to rule this earth, to move the earth with their tools and shape matter for this work. But brutal degradation clings like a blight, a curse, to the tools, the factories, the machines, and the industry of today. People are forced to perform soulless labor for which they have no heart or quickening of spirit, and in which no community results.

We cannot yet tell in detail how this communal love of work with its voluntary nature and joy in creativity will become practical reality. We do not know to what extent mechanized industry will be struck when the works of the devil are destroyed. The evolution of work has arrived at a deadlock: division of labor and victimization of people. Love must also become inventive in the technical area, so that soul, oversight, and unity are brought into every piece of work once more.

To put effort into one’s work, exerting one’s powers, is a good thing even if it makes one sweat. But breathing chemicals, swallowing coal dust, getting lead poisoning, and becoming mentally stultified is an infernal murder, one which we must abolish if we are to become truly human. When the new kingdom comes, that will all be overcome and done away with.

This is not some fantastic, unattainable future; on the contrary, it is the quiet reality of a church already emerging today. God is – everywhere and always. We cannot make the kingdom of God – that is impossible – but we can live in God’s kingdom all the time. Christ comes to us. And as certainly as this is true for individuals, personally, it will be fulfilled as a fact in world history.

Excerpted from the original 1920 essay, "Community and the Future of Work." Translated by Emmy Barth Maendel.