Most of us would like to have been born with a silver spoon in our mouths. We often envy the man who inherits wealth, and who can therefore live a life of idleness and pleasure. As we have not been born to riches, we sometimes hope that we may some day suddenly become rich by a lucky ticket in a lottery. Fancy not having to work for one’s living.
Yet it is certainly a good thing for the community, and probably a good thing for us, that we cannot live without working. And, in our saner moments, we probably feel it is a good thing on the whole that God from the first said to man, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”; and recognize the soundness of the apostle’s rule, “If a man will not work, neither let him eat!”
The necessity of working for a living gives a man the proud spirit of independence. The beggar who lives upon alms, the parasite who attaches himself to some rich patron and earns his keep by insincere flattery, are types which all right-minded people pity or despise. Why, then, should we envy the idle rich, who live upon the wealth produced by others, and, like drones in the hive, produce no honey themselves? The worker earns his keep by honest labor, and can look the world in the face, because he owes no man anything. And while he supports himself and his family with his own labor, he knows he is contributing useful goods or services for the benefit of the whole community. For him:
“Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees its close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.”
Then again the regular daily work, which must be done, produces good habits – such as perseverance, application, punctuality, thoroughness, attention to details, and the habit of industry. These virtues may be humdrum and commonplace; but many a promising life has come to nothing for lack of them. And no idler can acquire them. So, blessed be drudgery!
Lastly, compulsory work is often necessary to bring out and train a man’s talents. Many an author who has risen to fame would never have written a book if he had not had to earn his living by his pen; and many a successful businessman would never have developed his gift for organization and management, if he had been born rich. How many of the rich and aristocratic classes ever do anything of note? Most of us would remain undeveloped and untrained if we could.