Manufacturing, the business of making things, has a special capacity to teach us that work is a form of continuing participation in divine creation. Work is more than merely a way to earn a living.
“A common theme is an appreciation for the creativity involved in manufacturing.”
Modern Machine Shop, Mark Albert,
Mark: My Word (A monthly column of comments and opinions)
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Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.
“These guys sure seem to be having fun on the job.” That was one of my thoughts while visiting True Cut Tool in preparation to write the article "Advanced Grinding—Plain and Simple." Everyone I talked to there seemed to enjoy what they were doing, even though the work involved intense diligence, skill and concentration.
It was also clear that they regarded the tooling items produced in the shop as good—good in the quality sense of meeting specs, but also good in the moral sense of contributing to a better world. For example, Kendall Nicodemus was eager to tell me about a stepped drill he helped design. This tool not only saved a customer several operations, but also provided outstanding cutter life. It eased a burden and conserved resources. These results pleased him. I noticed the delight in his eyes as he opened the CAD file to show me special features of his design.
No doubt Kendall, his brothers and dad see the work they do as a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Larry, the dad, may even have a Scripture verse about that.
Of course, this is not the first time I’ve encountered this attitude about work and manufacturing. It usually comes across most strongly in family-run job shops or small manufacturing companies. A common theme is an appreciation for the creativity involved in manufacturing. To these shop owners and managers, this creativity reflects the creativity of God as the original maker of all things. This insight leads them to be mindful that being created in the image of God means honoring the human capacity to be productive and creative.
For example, Painter Tool Inc., in North Huntington, Pennsylvania includes this statement on the homepage of its website: “All glory is given to God, being the great designer and original manufacturer. We, man, simply do as our Creator has done. Here at PTI, we seek to honor the Creator by being creative and doing manufacturing.”
Recently, I talked to Dave Painter, who owns this 15-person shop with his wife Carol. He explained that making the connection between human creation and divine creation was important because it affirmed the dignity of work, especially the work of manufacturing. He also pointed out that this is the reason work was a pleasure to him. “Work defines who we are and what God wants us to be—creators and sustainers of the good in this world. That’s the true nobility and honor of work,” he told me.
I’m sure that Larry and his family would wholeheartedly agree.
We don’t often talk about the ways our jobs and our work can—and should—help us to be godly men and women. That’s unfortunate. Acknowledging this spiritual dimension would do much to right a great failing of our times—neglect of the everyday holiness that is our calling.