Work and the Success Syndrome

By Rev. Eric Butterworth
Making something of yourself, Work and the Success Syndrome, Spiritual Economics, Rev. Eric Butterworth

The spiritual economics of getting into the flow of divinity—and your prosperity

When Jesus says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 KJV), he implies that our bondage in life is caused by our acceptance of erroneous beliefs. A Greek philosopher, Zeno, says, “The most important part of learning is to unlearn our errors.”

In the study of spiritual economics, nothing is more basic or more rife with mistaken beliefs than our attitudes toward work.

Why do you work? You may smile at the question, for it seems perfectly obvious that everyone works to make a living. However, if this is the only reason you can come up with, then it is one of the errors that needs to be unlearned. It is an attitude that may well be frustrating your creative flow.

What are you getting out of your work? If you respond in terms of salary figures, fringe benefits, and executive “perks,” then you are underpaid. Not that your employer is inadequately compensating you. That is something else. What we are referring to is that by the evidence of your narrowness of vision, you are shortchanging yourself.

Your prosperity will always be a reflection of your consciousness, the degree to which your thoughts are centered in the divine flow. You spend most of your life engaged in some kind of gainful employment; thus if your attitudes about work in general and your job in particular are not right, then truly you are working against yourself.

You may seek diligently to demonstrate prosperity, but unless you unlearn your error thoughts about work, you will forever be out of “sync” with the creative flow of the Universe.

A German educator, Friedrich Fröbel, had a refreshingly positive sense of the cosmic process at work within the individual. How good it would be if his ideal of work could be stressed in our modern-day educational system: 

“The delusive idea that men merely toil and work for the sake of preserving their bodies and procuring for themselves bread, houses, and clothes is degrading, and not to be encouraged. The true origin of man’s activity and creativeness lies in his increasing impulse to embody outside of himself the divine and spiritual element within him.

It is a tremendous realization. What if our young people could be graduated into their work life with a preconditioning of this awareness?

You may seek diligently to demonstrate prosperity, but unless you unlearn your error thoughts about work, you will forever be out of “sync” with the creative flow of the Universe.

You Will Prosper

Work is, and should be so considered by every worker, a giving process. Jesus said, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3 KJV). In other words, don’t get trapped in the error of equating what you earn with the work you do. How easy and yet how mistaken it is to be influenced by the “another day, another dollar” syndrome.

Let your work, whatever it may involve, be an outworking of the creative flow, engaged in through the sheer joy of fulfilling your divine nature. You will prosper, and you should do so, but it will not be because you have “made money” in your job.

The work in the job is the means by which you build a consciousness of giving, which in turn gives rise to an outworking or “receiving flow.” It is a subtle distinction but an extremely important one. If the left hand (receiving your pay) knows what the right hand does (the work of your job) then there is no real giving, only a bartering. This is “selling your soul for a mess of pottage.” All the elements needed to fulfill the prosperity law for you are missing.

A distinguished professor at Harvard University once said, “The University pays me for doing what I would gladly do for nothing, if I could afford it.” Most persons might laugh at his naïveté. However, what he is saying is that his work is not just a place to tediously make a living but an opportunity to joyously live his making.

In other words, he is looking at his teaching work in terms of the privilege it gives him to grow as a person. And growth is what life is all about ... not just paychecks and fringe benefits, but growth. It is probably true that the best living is “made” by those workers whose chief motivation is to give themselves away …

A Divine Flow from Within

Refreshing is the holism of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“No matter what your work, let it be your own. No matter what your occupation, let what you are doing be organic. Let it be in your bones. In this way you will open the door by which the affluence of heaven and earth shall stream into you.”

It is a beautiful insight dealing with prosperity as a divine flow from within. When you work in the right consciousness, when your work becomes organically a part of your whole self, and when you do your work out of that commitment, no matter what other people do, no matter what the compensation may be, doing it for the health of your own soul, then you open the door by which the affluence of the Universe flows forth into your life.

It is a beautiful realization, but how quickly you forget, going to the office, reading the morning paper over your cup of coffee, and then plunging into a meaningless job, which offers little more than various levels of boredom through the day. And if this is the attitude, then it follows as night follows day that there will be a problem of financial stringency in your life.

It will do little good to run frantically to a Truth teacher asking for prosperity prayers.

God can do no more for you than God can do through you. As the Quakers say. “When you pray, move your feet.” In this case, move your hands. Begin to do what you do in the awareness that you are working with God for the releasing of your own “inner splendor.” And when you earn your wings in consciousness, “the affluence of heaven and earth will stream into you.”

Life’s Inmost Secret

In his classic work The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran says:

“When you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.”

Life’s inmost secret is the divine pattern in you which you can only really know when you are giving yourself in service. You can work for money and prestige and climb to the pinnacle of success and still not know yourself, thus seeking other avenues of escape such as alcohol and various kinds of addiction. All this is because your work does not satisfy you. And the reason it doesn’t satisfy you is that you are not satisfied with or fulfilled in yourself.

However, when you are intimate with life’s secret, your work becomes your calling.

The word vocation comes from the Latin, meaning, “I call.” Begin to think of your work as a calling. The creative process is calling, singing its song in you and as you. However, it is not your song but the will of Him who sent you. So the work becomes easy and fulfilling, and you become prosperous and successful in it. There is no pressure, for “the affluence of heaven and earth streams into you.”

It is important to understand that it is possible for every person to be successful at work. Elbert Hubbard puts it emphatically: “Success is the most natural thing in the world. The person who does not succeed has placed himself in opposition to the laws of the Universe.” In other words, the only one who can keep you from succeeding is you by blocking your own creative flow.

You are not a helpless creature adrift on the seas of life, trying desperately to make something of yourself against impossible odds. The creative intention is vitally involved in you.

Thus your desire to get ahead, your urge to succeed, is your intuitive awareness of something within you that wants to succeed through you.


Making something of yourself, Work and the Success Syndrome, Spiritual Economics, Rev. Eric ButterworthRev. Eric Butterworth authored numerous articles and books, including Discover the Power Within You, Unity: A Quest for Truth, In the Flow of Life, The Universe Is Calling, and Celebrate Yourself! He was a Unity minister in New York City and conducted services at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center for more than 35 years. Butterworth’s life was dedicated to helping people to help themselves. This excerpt is from his book Spiritual Economics.