What is a worker’s first duty?
Well meaning Christians might respond, “to serve the community.” But Dorothy Sayers says, no, it is “to serve the work” in Why Work?
If you aim to serve the community through work, you run into three problems, says Sayers.
First, “you cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it,” and such “work will not be good.” (Work that is not good serves neither God nor the community; “it only serves mammon.”)
Second, if you aim to serve the community, then “you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains; you begin to think that you have a claim on the community.” “But if your mind is set upon serving the work, then you know you have nothing to look for; the only reward the work can give you is the satisfaction of beholding its perfection.”
Third, “if you set out to serve the community, you will probably end by merely fulfilling a public demand” “instead of doing the work as its own integrity demands that it should be done.” “The work has been falsified to please the public, and in the end even the public is not pleased.”
This is why Sayers concludes “the only true way of serving the community is to be truly in sympathy with the community, to be oneself part of the community and then to serve the work without giving the community another thought. Then the work will endure, because it will be true to itself. It is the work that serves the community; the business of the worker is to serve the work.”
As for the role of the church? “It is the business of religion to make us Christian people, and then our work will naturally be turned to Christian ends, because our work is the expression of ourselves.” Thus, “if work is to find its right place in the world, it is the duty of the Church to see to it that the work serves God, and that the worker serves the work.”