Labour Of Love

From “Letters to Salvationists on Religion for Every Day”
by William Booth, 1829-1912

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My contention then, is, that whether in the shop or on the ship, in the parlour or in the kitchen, in the factory or in the field, in the pulpit or in the coal mine, whether officers or soldiers, we are all alike, as servants of God, under the obligation to do all we possibly can in the service of humanity and to do it with the holy motive of pleasing our heavenly master.

Here let me review my warrant for requiring from you the kind of loving labour that I advocate.

  1. The Bible enjoins it. We have already quoted Paul’s words to the Ephesians, in which he says that our work is to be done, “Not with eye-service as people-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to people.” That is all I ask for.
  2. It is enjoined by the doctrine of neighbourly love. I cannot understand how people can suppose, for a moment, that they are living a life acceptable to God unless they are striving, with all their might, to fulfil the divine command, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Your employer, or whoever has a claim upon your service, must be included in the term “neighbour,” and to comply with the command of the Saviour, you must work for that employer from the voluntary principle of love rather than the earthly and selfish principle of gain.
  3. Is not the disinterested method I am urging upon you in keeping with the loftiest ideals the world possesses with respect to work? About whom does it write its poetry? Whom does it laud to the heavens in the pulpit, on the platform and in the press? Whose names does it inscribe the highest in its temples of fame, or hand down to posterity as examples for rich and poor, old and young alike, to follow? Is it people who make their own ease and enrichment their only aim in life and who toil and spin for nothing higher than their own gratification? Nothing of the kind. It is the generous, self-sacrificing, disinterested people who use themselves up for the benefit of other people.

No, at who does that same world ceaselessly sneer and who does it most pitilessly despise? Is it not the mean and narrow spirit whose conduct is governed by selfish greed and sensual indulgences? Whatever may be its general practice, in this respect, the sentiment of the world is in the right direction. It asks for benevolence evidenced by unselfish labour and admires it when it finds it.

A paragraph went the round of the newspaper world, a little time back, describing how an American millionaire had decided to spend the rest of his days on a leper island in the Pacific Ocean, in order to labour for the amelioration of the miseries of its unfortunate inhabitants. Wonder and admiration everywhere greeted the announcement.

Shall we go back on all this spirit of self-sacrifice? Shall this kind of thing die out, or only have an existence in poetry books, platform quotations or anecdote collections? Shall we change over to the “pound-of-flesh” principle and hire out the work of our hands, the thoughts of our minds and the burning passions of our souls for the largest amount of filthy lucre and the greatest measure of earthly comfort that we can obtain for them, so justifying the lying libel on humanity, long since spoken, and still often sneeringly quoted, that everyone has their price? Or shall we say that love, the love of God and people, is the highest and most divine motive of labour, a motive possible not only to the sons and daughters of genius but accessible to the plainest, humblest man or woman who suffers and toils on the lowest round of the ladder of life.

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