“69% of the country believes that a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work.”–Gallup poll
I think this is sad. When an ancient Jew heard the word we translate “work” read from the Old Testament, the concept it brought to mind was not simply engaging in some type of compartmentalized labor. Rather he thought of work and worship. The notion was service (sacrifice) to God as offered through work. Six days a week in ancient Israel, the Israelites were to offer to God their work.
The other side of the coin was the Sabbath. On the seventh day, the Jew was to rest. But rest here was not simply a cessation from labor. Rather, it was understood to be, again, a service to God. This rest was an offering to God—worship. The byproduct was re-newal and re-creation.
The biblical understanding was never that a person would work until he or she reached the point of retirement, and then that person would be able to finally begin doing what he enjoyed. Instead, the biblical ideal was to work until death. The good life was to find work in something about which one was passionate. That person would work six days, and rest one. Both acts were offerings to God.
And if a Jew was not passionate about her work? She could find consolation in the fact that she was offering a sacrifice to God through her work. Work was truly a sacred calling.