Monday, September 01, 2008

The Dignity of Work

On this labor day I wanted to talk a bit about the dignity of the worker. Christianity has always taught that work and the worker have an innate dignity no matter what the pay or the type of work. There is innate dignity in doing all types of work.

Much has been said about the working conditions that such dignity requires from employers. That is a common labor day topic. I wanted to talk a bit, however, about the worker's innate dignity as reflected, not in the job, or the employer, but in the worker himself.

In today's consumerist society, most of us probably have a job where we interact with the public in some way. No matter how difficult, or taxing, repetitive or even boring your work might be, it is within your power to lend that work, and you, the worker, the innate dignity that God gave you. Whether we are serving food, selling gadgets, or mopping floors, a job is something that gives us an opportunity to serve others. As Christians, we are obliged to work as hard as we can, every day we are on the job, and to go out of our way to serve the people who cross our paths.

St. Therese, the Little Flower, said of work that, "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them." For her, each task, no matter how menial or unfairly assigned, was an opportunity to grow in grace, love and holiness, and to show the love of Jesus to others.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life working among India's poorest of the poor said, "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." We are called to take a leadership role when it comes to work. Work hard. Work first. Work until the job is finished. Work before we are asked.

By following the teachings of Christ and imitating His saints, will certainly stand out among our fellow workers. Given the eternal logic and rationalism inherent in Christianity, this work-as-service mentality will also give you a stellar reputation on the job, and, hence, make getting and keeping a job that much easier.

Christianity works.

Who knew?

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Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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