Songs to Work To

First things, take it off shuffle. Please! This playlist is one to be played through in order (and best with a three-second crossfade). Think of it as a progression through ideas, thoughts, and feelings about work. Within this listening journey, you will (hopefully) catch glimpses of the goodness of work. Keep an ear open for songs that point to the reality of work as a gift and an expression of gratitude for the gift of life itself. You will hear artists lean into the idea that, as image-bearers, our work is a way in which we participate in the project of creation. Our calling, including our work, is to see that creation, in Walter Brueggemann’s words, “becomes fully the creation willed by God” (Genesis).

This wonderful and compelling picture of work—our working lives caught up in the unfolding of God’s good purposes—is, however, interrupted by the harsh realities of our broken, fractured world and by the disintegrated lives we lead. Throughout the playlist, tracks serve to remind each of us that work is complicated. God’s good gift of work has been corrupted by our ambition, our attempts at autonomy, and our disordered desire to make a name for ourselves. And even if we have begun to bear witness to God’s redemptive love in and through our work, we find ourselves immersed in systems that are shot through with sin. For many—too many—work exploits and dehumanises; Pharaoh still demands his bricks. And so, we will hear the grief of a world in travail.

Yet, even within these expressions of lament at the suffering of thorns and thistles, at the pain of the sweat and toil that mark our daily struggle, there are notes of redemption to be heard. Glory is glimpsed in the artistry of musicians who have taken struggle and have breathed life into the cry and who have dignified the plight of the downtrodden by elevating it with new energy and creativity. Listen for notes, melodies, and harmonies that evoke a taste of the “not yet” breaking into the middle of our “now” daily reality.

Some of these song choices are obvious. Others are a little more obscure. There are some unlikely turns, for sure. Smuggled into the mix are questions regarding our motives for work, the cost of our ambition, and the patterns of our work and rest. I trust that the flow of this playlist, the highs and lows of this meditation on work, will lead you to consider anew the good gift of work and how God is inviting you, in and through your work, to participate in new creation.

(Image by özgür özkan, CC Zero)