How did this come to be attributed to the Buddha? It’s yet another of Jack Kornfield’s sayings from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (1994).
A surprising number of Fake Buddha Quotes come from the same source, but it’s not Jack’s fault!
The back cover of the book makes clear that this is not a collection of scriptural quotations — “For this small handbook, a well-known American Buddhist and phsychologist has distilled and adapted an ancient teaching for the needs of contemporary life” — but a lot of people seem to have been misled by the title.
There’s nothing un-Buddhist about this quotation in the slightest. It’s the neatness of expression that made me suspicious of it. The Buddha did talk about the benefits of ethical work, for example in this quote from the Mangala (Blessings) Sutta:
To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.
And “right speech” (speech that is truthful, kind, meaningful, and conducive to harmony — and sometimes “speaking at the right time” is added) is often praised as well.
The closest quotation I know of to Jack’s expression is also from the Mangala Sutta:
To have much learning, to be skillful in handicraft, well-trained in discipline, and to be of good speech — this is the greatest blessing.
Here we have work, words, and blessings (presumably bringing happiness!) in one sentence. This may in fact be the original source that Jack was paraphrasing.