Headwork and Handwork

In the November 2012 issue of Tabletalk magazine David Murray has an article entitled “The Beauty of Manual Labor.” I appreciated the article’s reminder that “headwork and handwork” are both valuable and rely on God-given talents. Specifically, I appreciated Murray’s emphasis on the fact that Scripture provides ample evidence for the “beauty and dignity of manual labor.” As someone who is far more gifted in the “headwork” realm, I have a tremendous appreciation for those that are skilled at handwork; I am always impressed when I see how someone can turn what to me looks like a piece of wood, a chunk of metal, or a dilapidated house into a beautiful piece of furniture, a lovely sculpture or a showplace.

Last Saturday the school at which I serve held its annual auction. This is a huge day for several reasons. First of all, it takes weeks and weeks of preparation for something that will be over in one day. Second, it brings hundreds of people to the school. And third, it provides a significant portion of the school’s annual operating revenue.

As I enjoyed the day, though, and reflected on the thoughts in Murray’s article, I was struck by the essential blending of the headwork and handwork skills to make the day a success. There was a lot of headwork that went into organizing and planning and executing the event, entering the items to be sold, entering the sale price and winning bidder number, printing receipts and collecting payment. There was extensive headwork involved in writing the computer program that tracked all of that data. There was a nifty combination of headwork and handwork involved in networking the computers and other technological elements of the event. And there was beautiful handwork evident in many of the items that were sold during the auction, from tasty homemade pies or candies or breads to beautiful paintings to fantastic sculptures, ironwork, handmade furniture and more. It was a wonderful illustration of the importance of both kinds of work in order to produce a finished product.

Everyday we interact with the products of headwork and handwork. If you don’t believe me, stop and think about everything you interact with in a day–everything you are interacting with simply by sitting at a computer reading this blog–and think about each step involved in producing the furniture you are sitting on, the computer or smart phone you are using to read this, the clothes you are wearing, the building or vehicle you are sitting it, the food you have eaten and will eat today, and on and on I could go…. Without both headwork and handwork our world would be in trouble.

Most importantly, let us be reminded of the truth of Murray’s statement: “The aim of handwork and headwork alike is the glory of God.” In response to the rhetorical question of how God can be honored through factory work or kitchen labor, Murray says, “We do my mirroring God through diligence, integrity, honesty, and above all, by aiming at excellence in all that we do.”

In conclusion, Murray presents a valuable reminder for all of us, whether we spend most of our time involved in handwork or headwork: “Work is difficult, excellent work is even more difficult, and doing God-glorifying work is most difficult of all. But if we do our God-given work with God’s help and for God’s glory, we are worshipping Him in, through, and with our work. And that’s beautiful.”

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