Class Warfare Blog

February 8, 2020

The Bricklayers’ Parable

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:54 am
Tags: ,

Have you heard of the Bricklayers’ Parable? If not, here it is:

* * *

The Bricklayer’s Parable
Three bricklayers are asked “What are you doing?”
The first says “I am laying bricks.”
The second says “I am building a church.”
The third says “I am building a house of god.”

The first bricklayer has a job, the second has a career, and the third has a calling.

* * *

Before I address this for the point I want to make, let’s explore what we are told. Is there anything in the text of this parable that tells you which bricklayer is more skilled? How about who works harder? Anything? There is not a single thing in the text that indicates anything of this kind but we bring certain attitudes along with us. Many of us assume that the bricklayer who just has a job is probably not doing work as good as the other two. But, I have known people who are in “skilled trades” who had a great deal of pride in doing high quality work. They hated being pushed to work faster than a high quality job required. They hated being given poor materials to work with, etc. If, at the end of a work day they felt they had done a good job, they came away feeling some satisfaction in that.

So, no, I don’t think the bricklayer who looks at his work as a job is doing any less of a quality job than the other two. He might be, but there is nothing in the text to indicate that. There is also nothing that indicates that the other two are doing less of a job.

So, What’s Your Point?
My point is that each of these three characters claims a different purpose for their work. For the first, his purpose is doing a good day’s work for a day’s pay. (A “good” day’s work is necessary or one might not have a job for long.) The second seems to be building an asset for this community (it may not even be his community, he may have driven in from a different county for this job). And the third is claiming a “higher purpose.”

Do these purposes change the job required? I can’t see how, but I guess it is possible. The relationship between bricks and mortar and taught alignment strings doesn’t seem to have even a whiff of the supernatural and I can’t think of a natural cause that would change the process of the work being done.

So, where did these purposes come from? Were they given to these three people or did they create them themselves? If they were given to them, who gave them?

My argument is that “purposes,” which are basically reasons for doing something, are sometimes given but almost always created by the person themselves. An example of one that is created by others is when parents ask their children how they are going to support themselves. This expectation of purpose may have its roots in our pay-as-you-go culture and the parents are just vehicles for its transmission. So this purpose can be considered to be given by the collective “us.” This is how we want our society to run.

Just because a purpose is pressed upon someone doesn’t mean they have to accept it. There are ne’er-do-wells in our society who have no “visible means of support,” who live through the charity of others, for example.

The bricklayer “just doing a job” has a purpose: supporting his family, putting a roof over his head, having something to eat, etc. Is this purpose any better or worse than any other?

If anyone claims they know the “purpose of life” I would grasp my wallet and walk away. That someone is making up a purpose for your life and will try to press it upon you. If you accept it, then it is indeed yours, but watch out, you may be being conned.

The third bricklayer is one of these folks. He is helping to build this building, he is not building it. He is, presumably, just laying the bricks for the walls, etc. but he will probably not be roofing the place, doing the floors, installing the windows, the HVAC, the plumbing, wiring the building, etc. He is putting on airs by saying “he is building a house of god.” And what if he were, say, a Southern Baptist by denomination and finds out after the building is finished that the church was being built for the Church of Scientology? Would he still think he built a house of god?

People who claim to know your purpose in life are putting on airs. Doing this makes them feel special, I am sure, but it is hardly something one can put any stock in it when so many people, doing the exact same thing are doing that thing for different reasons, which we call “purposes.”

You make your own. You are powerful!


  1. When considered to be just an another species in the evolution of life on earth, our purpose is the same as for all life forms, and that is to survive. The miracle is the birth and the nurturing parts. Hope all is well. Cheers. GROG


    Comment by grogalot — February 8, 2020 @ 10:37 am | Reply

    • I think surviving is a foundational purpose which is hard wired in. It is rarely a thing brought into play … at least in the lives of rich Americans.

      So, why did evolution give us this purpose? Again, wrong thinking abounds if one has this question. I suspect that all kinds of species had no such purpose, but they didn’t survive to pass on their genes. Having such a “purpose” hard wired in automatically makes one’s species more likely to survive. I did read a book that had as a premise that Homo sapiens sapiens survived when the other Homo species did not because we were more ruthless, more willing to do anything to survive. I guess it is possible.

      On Sat, Feb 8, 2020 at 10:37 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 8, 2020 @ 10:51 am | Reply

      • Humans have survived, so we have been successful in fulfilling our purpose. We evolved a larger brain. The brains purpose is to be successful and uses every strategy available to keep the organism alive. GROG


        Comment by grogalot — February 8, 2020 @ 11:13 am | Reply

  2. Who’s the foreman?


    Comment by john zande — February 8, 2020 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  3. I see the tree.
    I see the forest.
    I see critical idiomatic potential.


    Comment by Bill — February 9, 2020 @ 8:56 am | Reply

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