Everyone engages in some kind of human work. Either we are an employee, or a small business owner, or a student, or a volunteer…whatever kind of work we do, whether we get paid for it or not, we all work in one way or another.
It is very much a part of what makes us human. In Genesis it says that God placed us in the Garden to “keep and till it” – we were not there simply to hang out. Even the Ancients understood that work was an essential aspect of what it means to be a human being.
I wonder if we ever consider that ordinary work – daily work carried out in the midst of the world – is God’s invitation to ministry and mission? That ordinary work is an important part of building not only the Kingdom of God, but also our own divine vocation?
After all, work done well speaks of our character and our devotion to the dignity of human work. This work that we do, which we pass on to others, also speaks to the care we show others as fellow laborers in our mutual endeavors.
But consider that work well done can actually contribute to your personal sanctification, the sanctification of others, even the world in which we live, if we fulfill our daily tasks with devotion and love.
Sanctification means to “make holy”, by means of the Holy Spirit working within each of us, blessing and making holy that which we do and those with who we come in contact.
Work, done with “right intention”, becomes a holy act. Work becomes prayer, if dedicated to God and God’s people task by task, and moment by moment.
So, what is our intention when we do human work? Do we see it as a means and a path to holiness?
After all, every noble task can be sanctified, can sanctify the worker herself, and sanctify others, if done with the devotion and love which is at the heart of the Way of Jesus. Work sanctified begins in the hands of people and ends up in the hands of God. To divorce work from God is to diminish its reality and its meaning, to reduce it to the merely human.
All human work bears witness to the dignity of humankind, and our directives from God to tend and nurture this world.
Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in our professional work done for God. The incidents, problems, friendships which our work brings will give us opportunities to be Christ for others, and provide experiences to consider in our prayer life.
From our understanding of the sacred nature of work, Christians come to understand other things…
We come to understand that just wages, benefits, and rights due workers are our duty to see fulfilled in society. The person who wishes to be just in the eyes of Jesus will work to establish just structures of wages and benefits for his/her fellow workers.
How can we honor the sanctity of human work and the sanctity of the worker, yet deny them just wages and benefits appropriate to a sustainable life? It would be like inviting them to church and denying them the Eucharist at the altar rail.
Let us never forget the holiness of human work, and that the worker is worth her wages. Most workers have not seen a rise in real income in over 40 years. This dishonors the justice due them, and disrespects the divine nature of the work they do.
Just as there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus, it is equally true that there is neither surgeon nor janitor, lawyer nor truckdriver, bishop nor street-sweeper, all are one in Christ Jesus if they do their respective work with love of God and love of neighbor in their hearts.