Why Jesus Is Your Real Boss
Work was always the intention of our Creator, a mission to be co-creators with God in completing an unfinished world.
We are told to “subdue the earth” (Gen 1:28), so that work should not be seen as a punishment for original sin.
However, after the original sin, the blessing becomes a curse and all the hardships, toils and tension related with work derive from this “curse”, this wounding of human nature (Gen 3:17-19).
Work is intimately linked to family life, as the family is a community made possible by work, Pope John Paul II said in his 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens, which was issued on the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo XII’s milestone document on the world of work, Rerum Novarum (1891).
There is a need for a family wage, sufficient for the needs of the family, Pope John Paul wrote, but in the way our economy is structured, this is unattainable for many, taking into account medical, educational and retirement needs.
Pope John Paul contended that women have an irreplaceable role as mothers and should not need to abandon taking care of the family. This will be challenged by some women!
Although the pope used a type of Marxist analysis of work, Catholic Social Teachings are adamantly against socialism. But trade unions are seen as basically constructive factors in society.
Genesis 2:2-3 reveals how God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day, which he requires to be kept holy (Exodus 20:8-11). However, many people are prevented from honouring this command by the terms of their employment.
In John 5:17 we read that “my Father continues to work”, working with creative power by sustaining in existence the world called to being from nothing, as Pope John Paul noted in Laborem Exercens.
Work is a participation in God’s activity, contributing to the realisation of God’s divine plan. In Mark 6:3 we find the Gospel of work—Jesus who is a carpenter, who ennobles the realm of work by his participation in meaningful activity.
There are many references to occupations in both the Old and New Testament, including physicians, shepherds, fishermen, craftsmen, scholars, vinedressers.
Jesus frequently referred to the world of work in his parables and stories. Paul boasts of his work as a tentmaker, in order not to impose on his flock. He exhorts the community to work, to earn a living (2 Thess 3:10-12).
To the Colossians, he wrote: “Whatever you are doing, put your whole heart into it, as if you were doing it for the Lord and not for men (sic), knowing that there is a master who will give you an inheritance as reward for your service. Christ is the master you must serve” (3:23-24).
This makes Jesus our real Boss!
It seems clear that legitimate work of any type is the ordinary means by which our sanctity is achieved, we do not have to be priests or religious to be holy; work, with its challenges, is the ordinary means of sanctification for most people.
Laborem Exercens argues that by enduring the “toil” of work in union with the Crucified Christ, we collaborate in a way with the Son of God in the work of the redemption of humanity.
The worker carries their cross every day, which is a small share in the Cross of Christ, accepted in the spirit of redemption. Our work in the material world can contribute to the better ordering of society, to the advancement of God’s Kingdom on Earth by making life more human.
The expectation of a new heaven and a new earth should not weaken our concern for cultivating this world.
I recall the funeral of a religious priest who had worked for a long period in employment before becoming a priest. The parable of workers being called into the vineyard at different times was used as the Gospel reading (Mt 20:1-16).
This seems to reflect scant attention to his work in the secular world and his contribution to society as a working person; surely too, a means of personal sanctification?
Jesus is the true master of the world of work, secular or otherwise. Work is holy, a source of personal growth in holiness, if accepted in a spirit of dedication and sacrifice.
The world of work, the economy, does not fulfil its function because of unemployment, dishonesty, bad business practices, greed and the old “curse”!
Workaholics should consult Mark 8:36, warning them against “winning” the whole world but losing their soul.
Read more articles by Fr Pierre Goldie at www.scross.co.za/category/perspectives/fr-pierre-goldie/