THE DIGNITY OF WORK
Up until the 14th century people were trapped in a culture that had very little economic growth and therefore jobs were scarce. Workers were not regarded as valuable and as a result were not paid well.
After the Black Plague between the years 1346 and 1353 during which millions of people died in Europe alone, workers suddenly became valued, and the rise of a working middle class gained traction.
COVID-19 did not claim near as many lives, but it is having a devasting impact on the workplace. The Economist observed that “people across the rich world have lost their taste for work.” COVID has had its impact, but even in the years leading up to this pandemic, people were already trending toward early retirement. Remember “Freedom 55?”
COVID did not do our economy a favor with its major disruptions due to business shutdowns. Adding to this injury governments have put in place, what have become “disincentives to work” by handsome payouts during the pandemic. Today I see “Help Needed” signs all over. Today, more people are becoming more dependent on government help than ever before.
God put tremendous importance on work. In the ten commandments of Exodus 20 he said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Keep it holy. (v:9) God himself set the pattern in the creation of the world. He worked to create it in six days and rested on the seventh. (Gen. 2:2) God presents himself as a worker.
All that is currently happening raises an important question. “Are we teaching this new generation the importance of work? And that work is a calling?” Throughout Scripture we are cautioned that if we don’t work, we don’t eat. (II Thess. 3:10) Work in God’s order was also meant to serve the common good. Cultures are a giant wheel of co-reliant people who work to fill their role in society and keep the various supply chains humming. In such a society, all work is important.
Paul closed out his two letters to the Thessalonians with an admonition not to be idle. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody, ” he cautioned them. “We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (I Thess. 4:11-12; 5:14)
In his second letter Paul wrote, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” He then sites himself as an example of hard work. “We were not idle… on the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (3:7-8)
Paul was dismayed at the news that some of the brothers in Thessaloniki were not working. “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (3:11-12)
One of man’s greatest sources of dignity is found in productive and rewarding work.
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love
Eccl. 5:19; 2:23-24; Colossians 3:23; II Thess. 3:6-15