Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

1/20/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

All work is noble because of the worker. For the Christian, it has been elevated through the Sacred Humanity of Christ

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church begins its section on work with a reflection of the Biblical view of work and man's relationship to work.  The message that one may take from the Compendium's understanding of the Biblical view of work is that it is a great, but relative good, especially as redeemed in Christ. 

The workshop of Nazareth

The workshop of Nazareth

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/20/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: work, labor, dignity of work, holiness, social teaching, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "Work is no disgrace; it is idleness which is a disgrace," writes the Greek poet Hesiod in his poem, Works and Days.  Even this noble pagan sentiment, however, fails to capture the Scriptural notion of the nobility of work and our duty to engage in it and sanctify it. We are also sanctified through it.  

Indeed, in the Scriptural view, work is a sort of imitation of God, the entire creation being seen as a workweek in which God brings forth the world out of nothing and gifts it to man so that he may exercise dominion over it and cultivate and care for it. (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; cf. Ps. 8:5-7) 

In Christ, work is even more ennobled, as we see God in his human nature working in the silent, hidden obscurity of Nazareth, setting for us an example of how work, even the most menial, can be the source of sanctification.  In Christ, "human work becomes a service raised to the grandeur of God." (Compendium, No. 262)

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church begins its section on work with a reflection of the Biblical view of work and man's relationship to work.  The message that one may take from the Compendium's understanding of the Biblical view of work is that it is a great, but relative good, especially as redeemed in Christ. 

"Work is part of the original state of man and precedes his fall; it is therefore not a punishment or curse.  "Work becomes toilsome only after the sin of Adam and Eve, after the fall. (Gen. 3:6-8; 17-19)  The soil begrudges its gifts: it "becomes miserly, unrewarding, sordidly hostile."  Only "by the sweat of one's brow" will man "get bread to eat." (Gen. 3:19)

When Christ teaches us to pray, "Give us this day, our daily bread," he is not teaching us to ask for some sort of divine welfare, a life of leisure while bread comes down from heaven as if it were manna.  He is enjoining us also to shoulder the duty of work as a predicate for the gift of its fruit.  "Through work," John Paul II said in his encyclical on human labor, "man must earn his daily bread."  The post lapsarian (after-the-Fall or human lapse) suffering toil, frustration, and burden do not change our essential duty to exercise dominion over, to "cultivate and care for" creation.

Simply put, work was a part of paradise.  After the Fall, work is part of the world which is no longer a paradise.

Work has a place of honor because it is the key to the conditions of a decent life, and hence a necessary key to flourishing, to fulfillment, to happiness.  It is a tool against poverty and hunger.  In this world--unless one lives off of the labor of another or off one's inherited or saved capital--work is what will keep body and soul together. "If any man will not work, neither let him eat." (2 Thess. 3:10)

For all its value, however, work and the wealth and money it may bring are not to be idolized.  There is such a thing as idols of work, of the marketplace, and of wealth: idola laboris, idola fori, idola pecuniae.  The Compendium warns us that one "must not succumb to the temptation of making an idol of work, for the ultimate and definitive meaning of life is not to be found in work."  "Work is essential," it recognizes, "but it is God--and not work--who is the origin of life and the final goal of man." (Compendium, No. 257) 

Therefore, the work week culminates in the Sabbath rest.  "The memory and the experience of the Sabbath constitute a barrier against becoming slaves to work, whether voluntarily or by force, and against every kind of exploitation, hidden or evident." (Compendium, No. 258)

Indeed, the wealth that work may yield--while unquestionably a great good--may also be inordinately loved.  "Man," our Lord says, "does not live by bread alone." (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4)  There are things greater than wealth--justice, righteousness, and charity among them.  "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord," Proverbs 15:16 says, "than great treasure and trouble with it." 

The same message is repeated: "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice." (Prov. 16:8)  We are therefore not to be anxious for earthly goods, like the Pagans. (Matt. 6:25, 31, 34)  "But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." (Matt. 6:33)

In the Scriptural view, there are few things more dangerous than a disordered approach to wealth.  We know what God has in store for the hoarder who had only his riches in mind, even if these riches were legally and justly acquired: "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you." (Luke 12:20) 

In the parable of Lazarus and Dives, the rich man Dives lands in Hades. (Luke 16:19-31)  "I tell you the truth," Christ says, "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."  He follows it up with an image which is harrowing to a man of means: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt. 19:23-24; Mark 10:24-25; Luke 18:24-25)

The Christian must therefore always subject himself to an examen of conscience, and he may have no better guide than Job: "Had I put my trust in gold or called fine gold my security; or had I rejoiced that my wealth was great, or that my hand had acquired abundance.  This too would be a crime for condemnation, for I should have denied God above."  (Job 31: 24-25, 28)

In his life, and in His Sacred Humanity, Jesus gives us an example of Christian work.  One must remember that in all Christ's "hidden years," Jesus labored in obscurity.  In fact, Jesus "'devoted most of the years of his life on earth in manual work at the carpenter's bench' in the workshop of Joseph." (Compendium, No. 259) (quoting JP II, Laborem exercens, 6)  Nothing Jesus did was in vain.  Nor must we think these almost thirty years of obscure labor meant nothing to Jesus or to humankind.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton said that there was one thing too great for God to show us when He walked upon earth, and that he "sometimes fancied that it was His mirth." In truth there was also something other than Jesus' mirth that was not shown us: the almost thirty years of obscure labor in Nazareth: God in humility, poverty, and silence--in hiding--doing "the work of human hands," the opera manuum hominum, of a poor carpenter.  It was this mysterious "non-revelation" that so inspired Blessed Charles de Foucald himself to live this "hidden life" outside of Tamanrasset, among the Berber Touareg tribe, in the hostile southern Sahara.

Jesus, Blessed Charles tells us, "came to Nazareth, the place of the hidden life, of ordinary life, of family life, of prayer, of work, of obscurity, of silent virtues practiced with no witness other than God, his family, and his neighbors, of this holy life, humble, kindly, obscure, that place where the greater part of humans lead their lives, and where he set the example for thirty years."

The value that Jesus ascribes to work is apparent in his parables and in his words.  Useless servants are chastised for hiding talents. (Matt. 24:46)  Hired laborers in the vineyard should accept their agreed wage. (Matt. 20:1-6)  The laborer deserves his wages. (Luke 10:7)  Servants that are faithful to their masters are held in high esteem. (Matt. 24:46)  He views his entire mission as work: "My Father is working still, and I am working." (John 5:17)

Given all this Scriptural teaching, the Compendium summarizes as follows.  "Work," reflected upon in the revelation of Jesus Christ, "represents a fundamental dimension of human existence as participation not only in the act of creation but also in that of redemption." (Compendium, No. 263) 

The difficulties of work can be part of that cross which, as disciples of our Lord, we are called to carry in imitation of our Lord.  Our work, not through any merits of its own, but as a result of the grace of Christ, becomes "an expression of man's full humanity, in his historical condition and his eschatological orientation." (Compendium, No. 118)  Work deals with things of this earth, but somehow it ought to point to the heavens.

We might express all this even more succinctly:  The Word of God worked.

----

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 agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Living Faith

Why do Catholics love the crucifix so much?

Image of The crucifix is an important part of our Catholic identity.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The crucifix is a quintessentially Catholic icon. Although other Christians fondly and proudly display the cross, it is the crucifix that is largely unique to the Catholics. Why is the symbol of the death of Christ so important to Catholics? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Nuclear weapons still threaten the world

Image of Nuclear weapons still threaten the world.

By Tony Magliano

You are within 30 minutes of being incinerated from nuclear weapons! If you live in or near a large U.S. city or major military installation, you are in harm's way. And when considering that radiation fallout from a nuclear attack would hurt virtually everyone, we are ... continue reading


POPE: 'A man who is alone ends up bitter, not fruitful, and he gossips about others' Watch

Image of The pope told the priests that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"A man who is alone ends up bitter, not fruitful, and he gossips about others." Those are the words of the Pope, speaking out during a meeting with 123 priests working in the Diocese of Caserta along with 19 bishops from Italy's Campania region this past ... continue reading


UPROOTED: Largest displacement of worldwide religious communities reached last year Watch

Image of In the nation of Central African Republic, widespread lawlessness and violence between Christians and Muslims resulted in at least 700 deaths in Bangui in December -- alone.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The year of 2013 turned out to be a very grim year indeed for religious tolerance and diversity. Millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Papal visit to US not confirmed, but archbishop confident

Image of Pope Francis coming to Philly next September!

By Catholic News Agency (News Consortium)

Lets all Pray that Pope Francis comes to visit us here in the United States of America. Philadelphia, PA  (CNA/EWTN) - Reports that Pope Francis will travel to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families in 2015 remain unconfirmed by the Vatican; however, ... continue reading


Catholic should be a way of life, not just a Sunday thing

Image of Catholic means universal. It's time to apply that to how we live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

To know the way forward, we must look to the past. As the very first chapter Ecclesiastes tells us, "there is no new thing under the sun," meaning that everything we think of as new is actually old and whatever we can imagine has been imagined, and even tried by those ... continue reading


Let the Holy Spirit Teach us How to Become Prayer Watch

Image of St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece, telling them to pray without ceasing. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills, and yes, difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith. Yet, he instructed them to Pray without ceasing. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he ... continue reading


Pope Francis meets, blesses Sudanese woman condemned to death for faith Watch

Image of Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy, but has since escaped her sentence and left Sudan.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has met and blessed the Sudanese woman who was recently condemned to death for her faith. Meriam Ibrahim was condemned to death in Sudan for the crime of apostasy. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has met and blessed Meriam Ibrahim at the ... continue reading


MIRACLE IN ENGLAND: God's face smiles over Norfolk, or is it Sean Connery or Karl Marx? Watch

Image of This image is suspected to show the face of God in clouds over Norfolk, however, it may also be the face of Karl Marx or Sean Connery.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The English have long thought themselves special, and a new photograph from Norfolk in England may just prove that God does indeed smile on the English. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amateur photographer Jeremy Fletcher took an image that shows a face in ... continue reading


Pope Francis to visit Mafia stronghold this weekend Watch

Image of Pope Francis' stance against organized crime is seen as remarkable; the Mafia and the Catholic Church have previously been seen by many as having

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Incensed about the loss of innocent life in his immediate surroundings, Pope Francis plans to travel to the Mafia stronghold of Caserta, near Naples this weekend in an effort to set things right. The murder of three-year-old Nicola "Coco" Campolongo, a boy who ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2014 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter