We are All Tentmakers: The Duty to Work and Contributive Justice
carpenter--taught that all labor is good if done for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31) This was not difficult for them, as the majority of them had been simple fishermen. None owned slaves. None were wealthy. None were born of royal or even noble blood.
All are called to contribute to the increase of the world. "By his work and industriousness, man--who has a share in the divine art and wisdom--makes creation, the cosmos already ordered by the Father, more beautiful. He summons the social and community energies that increase the common good, above all to the benefit of those who are neediest." (Compendium, No. 266)
And if one seeks perfection, as St. Basil told his monks, one will not work for oneself, but for others. "Human work, directed to charity as its final goal, becomes an occasion for contemplation, it becomes devout prayer, vigilantly rising towards and in anxious hope of the day that will not end." (Compendium, No. 266)
There are many Saints who heroically gave of their property and their work to the most needy, who epitomize contributive justice and charity, and who therefore are our models. Of the many we could cite, we might point to the American banking heiress St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1988) who contributed her entire vast estate (estimated at $20 million) and selflessly dedicated her entire earthly labor for the education of the Black and Native American peoples who had been such victims of social oppression and racial injustice.
True, we do not all have the financial resources of St. Katharine Drexel. Some of us are mere tentmakers and fishermen. But whether we are poor tentmakers or wealthy banking heiresses, or anything in between, we have a duty in contributive justice to work toward the common good. There is no rich or poor in Christ Jesus when it comes to this obligation. Each must give according to his or her means and the promptings of his or her conscience.
Indeed, as Christians, we have a duty to go beyond mere contributive justice and give of our plenty (and even in our want . . . remember the widow's mite!) to those who are most in need. We are haunted by Christ's words: "Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me." (Matt. 25:45) These move us in ways that no unbeliever can understand.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: work, contributive justice, Social Justice, Social Doctrine, economics, Andrew Greenwell, Esq.
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