It is a part of the divine purpose that we should work to
earn our living, excluding those of course who for valid reasons are unable to
do so. Even in the perfect environment of the garden of Eden, Adam had duties
to perform. He had to keep the garden and also exercise dominion over the
creatures, but it did not prove to be an onerous task as he enjoyed perfect
physical strength. It was only after the Fall (Adam's disobedience of God's
commandment) that work became toilsome(9). Nature too was affected and his living had to be
earned by the sweat of his brow.
The subject of work is taken up again when God gave the
commandments to Moses. The fourth commandment stipulated Six days shalt thou
labour and do all thy work, and on the seventh you shall rest(10). When Jesus was
on earth He engaged in manual labour for the greater part of His life. He
became a carpenter, and by so doing dignified labour. He also preached that a
fair day's work should be remunerated with a fair day's wage, or, as He put it
the labourer is worthy of his hire(11). Any worker or group of workers therefore that
negotiate for proper wages have none other than the Founder of the Christian
Faith on their side!
Scripture however goes further than viewing work and its
reward as ends in themselves. The worker is reminded that he has two masters,
one earthly and one heavenly. This lifts the work ethic when it states,
Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to man, because you
serve the Lord Christ(12). This command will do two things, a) it will ensure
honest and good workmanship, and b) it will entail that the work is done for
the good of the community, avoiding any products or substances that would be
detrimental to health, safety and welfare of others.
There is also a word for the spongers and work-shy. St Paul
was quite a disciplinarian and had no time for the spongers and work-shy. He
hits out at them in his letter to the people at Thessalonica. If a man would
not work, neither should he eat(13) The book of
Proverbs also challenges the indolent to go to the ant thou sluggard, consider
her ways and be wise(14).