Is working with your hands better than working with your head? More and more depressed office workers are answering yes, reversing the decades-long trend away from manual labor.

Columnist and broadcaster Giles Coren recently swapped his PC and keyboard for working on a small farm with vegetables and chickens – and found it “immensely satisfying.” In a BBC report he complains that “modern life has been blighted by a series of alienating processes, often carried out on mobile phone, laptop and e-mail. In this way, his chosen career – journalism – has been stripped of its sense of adventure and human contact.” He says:

“Even 15 years ago when I started as a reporter, you left the office to do a story. You went to investigate, visited people and used the cuttings library. Now I just sit… and Google. It’s terrible, I wish I was a fireman.”


Despite his columnist’s salary, he is jealous of those whose jobs have a clear purpose like the gardener and cleaner.


“My gardener Brian comes in to do the garden every two weeks. He takes his shirt off in the summer and smokes a rollie. I can see him through the window, but I’m sitting indoors, staring at the screen to pay for this guy – it’s the classic middle-class paradox.”

Pastors often feel something similar, especially those who have entered pastoral ministry after working in industry, or engineering, or such like. “So many hours, and so much effort, for so little evident return. Think I’ll go back to laying bricks, mending engines, or sweeping floors. At least I would have a wall, or a car, or a pile of dust to point to at the end of the day!”

But whether we work with our heads or our hands we will never find full satisfaction in our work – even ministry work. The divine curse on our labor affects both head-workers and hand-workers (Gen. 3:17-19). We will encounter thorns and thistles in our offices as well as on our farms, in our cubicles as well as in our yards.

And in a way we should be thankful for that. God cursed the labor he provided for us so that we would not make it a god and find our satisfaction in it rather than in Him.

However, I think it’s still a great idea for knowledge workers, like pastors, to have a hands-on project, something involving manual labor, on the side. It does give the mind a break, and it does give a sense of accomplishment in the midst of often discouraging circumstances. So why not plant a vegetable garden, take woodwork classes, paint a room, or make tents (Acts 18:3).

I even knew a pastor (who shall remain nameless) who took flower-arranging classes…and showed his handiwork to visitors! Hmmm…I think I’ll stick with Tae Kwon Do. I prefer breaking boards to plucking petals.

  • jeff weddle

    As a pastor I do get tired of sitting. The last two years my wife and I started working part-time cleaning cabins during vacation season. I have totally enjoyed it! FOund it to be a great release, distraction, and a good way to make some extra cash.