Dignity of Work (Our work is holy)

Human work even in its humblest form has an intrinsic dignity, because it flows from the hands of one who is infinitely special in the eyes of God. God has given us a role in co-creating the world and making it a better place. Hence, whatever work we do, whether cleaning tables or clearing arteries, we can be proud of it as long as it promotes human development. The dignity of work also implies the need to ensure that all people have working conditions worthy of the children of God.

Looking around us

What are the different types of work in our society? What are the working conditions like for the worker? Are there situations where I can see that the dignity of the person is being compromised?

Are we advocators of just work practices in our homes and workplace? Are both migrant workers and citizens treated equally at the workplace?

Let us reflect
From Scripture…

  • Isaiah 58:3-7 To observe religious practices, but oppress your workers is false worship
  • Matthew 20:1-16 All workers should be paid a just and living wage
  • Mark 2:27 The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath
  • James 5:1-6 Those who become rich by abusing their workers have sinned against God

From our social teachings… (CSDC)
272. Human work not only proceeds from the person, but it is also essentially ordered to and has its final goal in the human person. Independently of its objective content, work must be oriented to the subject who performs it, because the end of work, any work whatsoever, always remains man. Even if one cannot ignore the objective component of work with regard to its quality, this component must nonetheless be subordinated to the self-realization of the person, and therefore to the subjective dimension, thanks to which it is possible to affirm that work is for man and not man for work. “It is always man who is the purpose of work, whatever work it is that is done by man — even if the common scale of values rates it as the merest ‘service’, as the most monotonous, even the most alienating work”[588].

273. Human work also has an intrinsic social dimension. A person’s work, in fact, is naturally connected with that of other people. Today “more than ever, work is work with others and work for others. It is a matter of doing something for someone else”[589]. The fruits of work offer occasions for exchange, relationship and encounter. Work, therefore, cannot be properly evaluated if its social nature is not taken into account: “For man’s productive effort cannot yield its fruits unless a truly social and organic body exists, unless a social and juridical order watches over the exercise of work, unless the various occupations, being interdependent, cooperate with and mutually complete one another, and, what is still more important, unless mind, material things, and work combine and form as it were a single whole. Therefore, where the social and individual nature of work is neglected, it will be impossible to evaluate work justly and pay it according to justice”[590].

274. Work is also “an obligation, that is to say, a duty on the part of man”[591]. Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity. Work is presented as a moral obligation with respect to one’s neighbour, which in the first place is one’s own family, but also the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter, the entire human family of which one is member. We are heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us.

Let us take some time to reflect on what our faith is saying in relation to the above-mentioned issue.

Suggestions for action:
How can we understand and apply the above teaching of our faith in our lives – What are our attitudes towards work? Have we respected the dignity of those who work for us and with us? Are the conditions of work respecting the dignity of workers?

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