We are all called to be workers. In the earliest part of the creation story God, the universe’s first worker, gave Adam the garden to “tend and keep” (Genesis 2:15). The first thing God did with Adam was to put him to work. Work was given to man as a gift, before original sin, not as a punishment after original sin. At it’s very core, a Christian approach to work is rooted in man’s relationship with God and creation.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 American Time Use Survey (most recent data available), in the US, employed persons worked slightly more than an average of 7.6 hours a day during the work week.
The job we do during our work week allows us to buy the necessities in life. Work provides “our daily bread” and we are able to support our families with what we earn. What is more challenging to understand is that our work (and how we accept, respect and support the work of others), is the mechanism that provides for the nourishment of our spirit.
Pope Francis has stated that being a worker and engaged in business is a genuine human and Christian calling. He calls work “a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by the greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”
When we forget that our work is an opportunity to use our gifts and our energies to help meet the needs of our fellow man, we forget that we are called by God to be a worker. Realizing that we actually work for Christ, not our boss, changes everything.
Just as many people separate their spiritual life from their finances, many people separate their work life from their spiritual life. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24 that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” If we are truly living our faith, our work life and spiritual life need to be integrated. If we are serving God with our work, then our work has a higher purpose.
We have a tendency to feel that the person with the big office and big paycheck has more value than the person who is emptying trash cans and cleaning the bathrooms. When we do this, we fail to acknowledge that there is equal dignity in all different occupations. What would the workplace be like if no one every emptied the trash or cleaned the bathrooms? The CEO and the janitor have different tasks, probably different education levels and different sized paychecks. But their work has equal dignity if done for the glory of God.
Pope Francis reminds us that work is fundamental to the dignity of the human person. He explains that “work ‘anoints’ with dignity, and that dignity is not conferred by one’s ancestry, family life or education. Dignity as such comes solely from work.”
Think about the lesson learned in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Each of the three servants is given a portion of the master’s assets based on his abilities, and is entrusted to be a responsible steward.
Two of the three follow the master’s instructions and make productive use of the master’s talents. The third, out of fear, hoards the asset and does nothing with it. The first two are praised and rewarded, and the third is scolded, rejected and punished. God expects us to use our “talents” to care for ourselves and our families. Work honors the gifts and talents that we receive from God. We are all called to use these talents in proportion to our abilities for our own care and benefit and for that of others.
Depending on your approach to work, you can spread the light of Christ or not.
Are you a frustrated worker always complaining and badmouthing your fellow employees and management? Do you constantly grumble about what goes on in the office or your hours or your co-workers?
Think about how your work is affecting your attitude. Do you feel a sense of joy and energy about your work? Or are you feeling depressed and overwhelmed? Your work should be uplifting to you.
Make a list of the gifts God has given you and evaluate how well you are using those gifts in your current job. See if you might tweak what you do or even make time for a hobby or a way to serve as a volunteer so you can use those gifts. Joy follows when you put your gifts to good use and if it doesn’t happen in your daily job, it needs to come from somewhere.
Is your job in conflict with your faith and family? It is important to be sure that work is not interfering with your vocation as a spouse or parent. If your work means you constantly miss important times with the family, then you may need to make some changes. For example, does your job interfere with your prayer life or your ability to have breakfast or dinner with the family on a regular basis? Even if you work less because you are putting your attention on the important areas of your vocation, your work time will be more productive if your priorities are in the proper order.
Evaluate the budget. Is having both parents working really adding to the family budget or tearing the family apart? Look at the costs associated with the second working parent—day care, restaurant lunches, fast food dinners, convenience meals, clothing, dry cleaning, transportation, etc. and figure out how much extra money is actually coming in to the family budget. It might not be as much as you think
If any of the above items hit a soft spot in your heart, maybe you need to make a change. Pray to the Holy Spirit for clarity about your current situation.
God is our Provider and He’s always faithful to provide for our needs. Obviously, our jobs are a big part of that. We never want to be ungrateful for our work because the Lord has provided it to us. The most important way to stay grateful on the job is to always keep in mind that you’re working for the Lord. Col 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men—it is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
For more on this topic, connect with Compass Catholic on Breadbox Media as we discuss the purpose and meaning of work.