Catholic Social teaching: Dignity of Work - Christ Working for Christ
things excludes materialism. "Any form of materialism or economic tenet that tries to reduce the worker to being a mere instrument of production, a simple labor force with an exclusively material value, would end up hopelessly distorting the essence of work and stripping it of its most noble and basic human finality." (Compendium, No. 271).
Human work, therefore, must recognize "human finality." It must have as its final goal, not work itself or its product, but must have its "final goal in the human person." The "end of work any work whatsoever, always remains man." "Work is for man, and not man for work." (Compendium, No. 272)
There is therefore always a personal, a spiritual part of man involved in work, and so "whatever work it is that is done by man--even if the common scale of values rates it as the meanest 'service,' as the most monotonous, even the most alienating work" retains its subjective value.
Work is never not tied to others. There are invariably social aspects, social connections and interdependency tied to work. One always works with others and for others, and not only for oneself. "Work, therefore, cannot be properly evaluated if its social nature is not taken into account." (Compendium, No. 273)
Work is not an option for man. Work is "an obligation, that is to say, a duty on the part of man." (Compendium, No. 274) In a sense, work may be seen as part of that commandment of loving one's self and loving one's neighbor as one's self. The "Creator has commanded" that man work. That command is not arbitrary, as it recognizes that work is required for a man "in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity."
Finally, work is a moral obligation "with respect to one's neighbor, which in the first place is one's family," but which may also be seen to including "the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter," and even "the entire human family of which one is a member." Indeed, the duty of work extends beyond our own time, since we are "heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us." (Compendium, No.274)
In trying to understand the Church's personalistic vision of work, we might invoke here the picture of the last judgment presented by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) and modify the context as a sort of thought experiment.
At the end of time, the Lord will separate employers and employees. And to the employers who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you provided me work." And they will respond, "Lord when did we give you work?" And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
And to the employees who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you worked for me." And these will respond, "Lord when did we work for you?" And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever work you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Think of how the world would differ if the employment relationships were seen as Christ employing Christ and Christ working for Christ.
I'll bet Adam Smith, James Mill, the Comte Saint-Simon, Karl Marx, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon and a whole host of modern economists never thought of that.
What a new thing that would be.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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, labor, employers, employees, unions, workers, Catholic social teaching, Andrew M. greenwell, Esq.
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