Some people see work only as something they have to do to make money so they can do what they really want. In this thinking, work might be described as a “necessary evil.”
Our Catholic faith gives us a different view of work. At the end of the first story of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3), we read “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3).
“Work” is mentioned three times in these three verses. Who is the one who does the work described? God! If God does work, it cannot be a bad thing. All that God does is good. What is the work God has done? He has created all that there is.
In Genesis 1:26-28, we read that the last thing that God creates is human beings. He creates human beings in his image and gives us dominion over all things. People sometimes take this “dominion” to mean that we can do whatever we want. We do have free will but we make the best use of what God has given us when we use it as He intends.
God has given each of us different gifts to use for the building up of the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12). God calls us to work together.
In the second story of creation in Genesis 2:4-25, we begin to learn what God has created us for. God gives us a purpose. In Genesis 2:5 we read, “there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground.” There was something lacking, There was no one “to till the ground.” We begin to see the purpose that God has given us. Genesis 2:15 makes this explicit, “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”
Does this mean that every person is called to be a farmer? That would go against the idea that God gives us different gifts to us in different ways as described in 1 Corinthians 12. What it does is invite us to reflect on how God calls us as individuals to use the gifts that He has given us. How are we called to cultivate what God has given us?
This is about work as a calling from God, not as something we do for a paycheck. What purpose has God given you? Maybe you are working in a paid job. Maybe you are retired and no longer work for money. Or maybe you volunteer outside the work you do to earn a paycheck. Maybe your work is to care for your children. In whichever category you fall, are you using your gifts as God intends, for the building up of his kingdom rather than your own little kingdom?
Many people spend a long time looking for fulfillment. There is only one thing that will truly fulfill us. It is to live as God calls us as we rejoice in his love.
As we celebrate our national holiday of Labor Day, it is appropriate that we think about the rights of all workers. Every worker is a human being created in God’s image and deserves to be treated as such.
Every worker has a right to a just wage for the work they do that provides them what they need to care for their family, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Every worker has a right to safe working conditions. No one should be asked to work an unreasonable number of hours. There must be no discrimination for Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
If you are the company owner, do you ensure these rights for your employees?
If you are a supervisor, do you strive to ensure the workers under you are treated fairly?
If you are a worker, do you do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.? The seventh commandment is “You shall not steal.” A worker steals if they do not a fair day’s work for their pay just as an employer who does not pay the wage the worker deserves is stealing from them.
What if you are the consumer? How do you treat the worker? For example, if you are at a restaurant, how do you treat the waiter/waitress? Do you treat them as someone at your beck and call or do you treat them as a person?
No matter what your position in life is, worker, supervisor, employer/owner, or consumer, you must never treat any worker as a commodity. Every worker must be treated as a person, a child of God. Yes, they have a job to do but they are children of God just as you are. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
As we celebrate Labor Day, let us give thanks to God for the gifts He has given us and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we use them in accord with his will. In doing so, we help make the world a better place.