Essay / Theology

"Get to Work!" -Charles Wesley

Here is a hymn Charles Wesley wrote about work. Like nearly all Wesley hymns, it’s tightly woven together with Scripture-allusion. It has simpler diction than many of Wesley’s hymns, because it was written for children. Actually, it was written for the orphans in the orphanage founded by George Whitefield in Georgia, for them to sing and meditate on “Before Their Going to Work.”

You could take a moment to analyze it in terms of the “Protestant work ethic and the spirit of capitalism,” consider whether Weber’s thesis applies to non-Calvinists like Wesley, worry with Marx that it’s a use of religion to keep the underclass under, or wring your hands at the yankee moralism of the whole thing.

Or you could sing along with Charles Wesley, in a biblical theology of work!

LET us go forth, ’tis God commands;
Let us make haste away;
Offer to Christ our hearts and hands:
We work for Christ to-day.

When He vouchsafes our hands to use,
It makes the labour sweet;
If any now to work refuse,
Let not the sluggard eat.

Who would not do what God ordains,
And promises to bless?
Who would not ’scape the toil and pains
Of sinful idleness?

In vain to Christ the slothful pray:
We have not learn’d Him so:
No; for He calls Himself the Way
And work’d Himself below.

Then let us in His footsteps tread,
And gladly act our part;
On earth employ our hands and head.
But give Him all our heart.

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