A Jurist’s Prudence

Born an only child, staking a fresh claim,
New life far from his father’s native land.
Freedom’s song echoed deep in him, a flame
Lighting the road appointed beforehand.

Justice called his name, from schoolyard to bench.
He turned his mind to law, memorizing
Line upon line, with thirst he could not quench;
In due time, kings and nations advising.

Anguished by cruel and raw philosophy,
Words that stand written wadded up, thrown down;
He spoke hard truth, quite nearly prophecy—
“Ad fontes!”—and was called out as a clown.

“Words truly live when documents are dead;
Meaning’s fixed mark is study’s only aim,
The woven past an ever-present thread.”
Classroom to courtroom, his refrain the same.

Truth and order drove his faith in the law,
Great leveler of heroes, villains, all
Ordinances grounded on rock not straw,
Flow from One Judge. He answered to that call.

Dissent became his firebrand, though not
For its own sake. Foolishness earned his wrath
Wherever righteousness was left unsought.
Few dared draw his ire on the warpath.

Even so, those he fought admired him,
Those flaming arrows a badge of honor,
His depth, wit, and gusto inspired them
To lose well when their case was a goner.

He has left today, old and full of years.
A republic mourns, a people fret, for
He was too often alone in his fears
That this great land had been struck to its core.

 

On Work

What is a person’s work worth?

We work to live. True, but there is more to the transaction than this crude equation points out. Should our work be sold to the highest bidder, a straight swap of services for compensation? Or does the act of employment itself create something greater than either party can produce alone?

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife and I wandered through a craft fair in North Carolina, I saw this sign on a booth.

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Tempting though it was to dismiss this as so much salesmanship for hobbyists, it stuck with me. Sure, artists tend to self-importance (No, I’d never do that), but there is something of imago Dei dignity in this statement. Any craftsmanship or professional endeavor is art in the sense described here, and in whatever capacity we are employed, we are selling a piece of ourselves. It is the value created by our knowledge, experience, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures that makes buying our labor worthwhile.

Of course, there is another side: If no one is buying what we are selling, the fault may not lie entirely with the purchaser. It is certainly not an easy task to turn some of the grimier and more mundane tasks of life into “art”, but excellence can be pursued in any endeavor. Surely this is what the Apostle had in mind when he told Christian slaves (encompassing by synecdoche all of us who work) to serve: “with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ; not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Eph. 6:5-7).

Work runs deeper than paying the bills, and, difficult and stressful though it may be at times, it is not itself a curse (as many have pointed out before, God gave Adam work to do in the Garden before the Fall). Perhaps if we remembered that the work of our hands is an extension of our person, we could serve and be served with greater honor and love.