enesis 1:26-27 states
Then God said, "let us make men in our image and likeness"!
Mankind is made in the image and likeness of God. Since God is love, and love is the quintessence of the character of God, mankind should imitate the action, and put on the mind of Christ. Human freedom and God's magnificent law meet and are called to intersect. This article will be written on the subject of human labor and the dignity of man. Biblical and Church teachings in regards to labor are called to intersect with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
According to Genesis 5:1-2, when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God; male and female He created them, and blessed them. The value and dignity of human work has an absolute specific significance in the plan of God regarding the creation of humanity. When we look at the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see Jesus rightly identified with the plight of the poor and the outcasts of society.
In Genesis 2:16, Scripture gives evidence that man's genuine moral autonomy in no way means the rejection but the acceptance of God's moral law. This is a mandate commanded by the Lord God! The fundamental and original intention of God towards man whom he made in his likeness and image was not canceled out after the Adamic sin, after Adam and Eve had broken the initial covenant with God. Let us look at the Biblical calling of man to subdue the earth in which man was given dominion by God. In Genesis 3:17-19, God tells Adam, because of his violation against the command of God, he must toil on the earth. Here is God's mandate for man to work.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:9-10, St. Paul gave the Thessalonians, in the conduct of the Disciples of Christ, an example to imitate. He exhorts
For even when we were with you, we gave you this command; if any one will not work, let him not eat.
In Ephesians 4:28 St. Paul exhorts
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.
Sirach 7:15 states
Do not hate toilsome labor, or farm work, which was created by the Most High.
Sirach 33:27 gives evidence to putting servants to work. The Biblical texts states
Put him to work that he may not be idle, for idleness teaches much evil.
The Bible and the Church show the positive dignity of human labor, in their declaration of injustice among the sins that cry out to heaven.
In Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and James 5:4, Sacred Scripture gives evidence of one of the most grievous sin is defrauding a worker his wage, and that the cries of the worker defrauded reach the ears of the Lord. In Sirach 34:22 states
To take away a neighbor's living is to murder him; to deprive an employee of his wage is to shed blood.
Jeremiah 22:13 states
Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages!
Proverbs 14:31 states
He who oppresses a poor man, insults his Maker.
The following Papal Encyclicals all give positive evidence and truly verify the Church's magnificent teaching on the dignity of human being: Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Centesimus Annus, Rerum Novarum, Octogesima Adveniens, Quadragesimo Anno, Mater et Magistra, Laborem Exercens, and Gaudium et Spes.
In Pacem In Teris – an Encyclical promulgated by Pope John XXIII on the establishment of peace, justice, charity, and liberty - the mind of Christ can be seen working through the Church. Order in human beings revealed by conscience through the infinite wisdom of God, order between men, man's rights, economic rights, the right of meeting and association, reciprocity of rights and duties between persons, attitudes of responsibility, social life in truth, charity and freedom can be found in the teachings of the Church. In Laborem Exercen, an Encyclical promulgated by Pope John Paul II, there exists the magnificent teaching regarding the rights of the formation of labor unions and associations. The Pope states that they are the mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice! The Church has always taught the principle of the priority of labor over capital, the reason being that Mankind is made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:26-27 is the Biblical verification that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:28-30 gives absolute definitive evidence that God has given man the ultimate authority to subdue and have dominion over the earth and this includes all natural resources. Therefore, in righteousness, man must be fruitful and productive with the provisions God has supplied him with. Psalm 8:6 states
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands.
This is definitive affirmation that God has given man the absolute dominion over the earth, and this is the Divine principle over labor over capital.
The subjective dimension of work, the dignity of the human person, always has priority over the objective dimension productivity! Work involves three spheres of values:
A personal value bringing dignity to the individual.
A family value forming the foundation of communal life.
A societal value enriching the common good.
Let us never forget that work is an active process by which creative and productive persons gain dominion over the earth and achieve fullness as human beings.The human person is spiritual, immortal, having interiority, and being called by God to the fullness of life. Since God is the source of human dignity, without God, the ultimate foundation of all justice, peace, mercy, and love loses all of its ultimate significance.
Responsibility must be exercised if people are to grow and maintain dignity. When God is rejected or ignored by society, an atmosphere is established that impedes human growth and human dignity. A product does not have inferiority, nor is it a center of thought or love, nor is it destined for immortality. Sacred Scripture gives affirmation regarding a foundation of human rights. When we speak of justice, let us look at active justice or justice in a subjective sense. Scripture tends to emphasize the correlative notions of absolute responsibilities or moral obligations when referring to justice. Deuteronomy 24:17 states
You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widows garment in pledge.
In Luke 18:1-8, in the parable of the persistent widow, the Biblical texts give affirmative evidence of the widow's persistency against the unjust judge. Look at the words of Jesus Christ in Luke's gospel where Christ concludes that God will secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night. Luke 18:7 states
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them.
When we look at the teachings of Jesus Christ with our heart open to the truth of the gospel, we can plainly see that the Lord Jesus Christ took a critical attitude towards the accumulation of wealth and worldly power that comes through the exploitation of others. Sacred Scripture gives definitive affirmation of this (Cf. Luke 12:13-21 in the parable of the Rich Fool). In Luke 16:13-15, Jesus exhorts
You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 6:19-24 gives definitive evidence in the teaching of Jesus Christ to store our riches in heaven, also, where one's treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus here exhorts
You cannot serve two masters. Either we will hate one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
In Mark 4:19, Jesus in the Parable of the Sower gives definitive evidence of the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. They come in and choke the Word. Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14 gives definitive affirmation that riches and life's pleasure choke the Word of God.
Take heed to the magnificent words of the beloved Apostle St. John. (1 John 2:15-16) St. John exhorts
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.
Does the Church teach Capitalism or Socialism? Let us look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 2425). The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies in modern times with "communism" or "socialism". She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism", individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. This is absolute proof that the Church must put on the mind of Christ in her teachings regarding economic activity and social justice.
Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended. In Guadium et Spes, the issue of private property represents an important aspect and perspective on economics. The communitarian ideal is a strong motif in Guadium et Spes. The dignity of the human person to be respected in their own right. The Council see personal dignity as an outgrowth of the reality of the Incarnation. Human work absolutely proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty. Let us look at St. Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this command. If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
Henceforth, work is a duty, and a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. St. John Chrysostom has vigorously stated
Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life.
When we look at the parable of the last judgment in Matthew's gospel, in the separation of the sheep and the goats. We can truly see the mandate of Christ that the believer must practice through a heart of charity and faithfulness the works of mercy. In Matthew 25:31-46, in the parable of the last judgment, the righteous judgment of God absolutely demands charity for one to reach the kingdom of heaven. Six of the seven corporal works of mercy are mentioned in this parable. Feeding the hungry. Giving drink to the thirsty. Sheltering the homeless. Clothing the naked. Visiting the sick. Visiting those in prison. Burying the dead in not mentioned in the parable. This is the seventh corporal work of mercy. In Matthew 25:40, look closely at the words of the King in his righteous judgment! Jesus exhorts
Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me!
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus exhorts
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Let us never forget, earthly treasures are perishable, let us lay up our treasures in heaven. Let us seek Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection, let us seek eternal life in Christ. Let us seek the imperishable crown of heaven. The worth and greatness of every human being is rooted in their relationship with God. Therefore, let us respect the intrinsic dignity of all human beings. The human conscience must ascertain to implement the divine qualities of God in his relationship with others, seeking the fullness of justice and truth. We must see Christ in all. We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The Golden Rule is love of neighbor.
The Bible and the Church teach brotherly love. Scripture calls mankind to love God and love his neighbor. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus exhorts
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all of his righteousness!
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus exhorts
No man can serve two masters….you cannot serve God and money.
Let me remind you again of the words of Christ regarding Christian charity. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus exhorts
Truly, truly, I say to you, what you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me.
Yes, the mind of Christ can be seen through the Church.
Exploitative Capitalism is sinful. Christian Capitalism is very commendable. Labor unions are very commendable when the sole purpose is to enhance the dignity of the human person. With a prudent concern for the common good, unions remain a constructive factor of social order and solidarity with the main obligation of a man living in true dignity in which he was created for by God. The Church encourages the formation and just administration of such unions, the solidarity between human beings. In Economic Justice For All, the Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching on the U.S. economy, regarding working people and labor unions, the Pope gives evidence that labor has great dignity. The Church fully supports the rights of workers and the formations of labor unions. The experience of history teaches that labor organizations are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies. The Church gives evidence of solidarity between human beings. Scripture gives evidence of this solidarity.
Proverbs 18:19 states
A brother helped is like a strong city.
The principal of subsidiarity is a Biblical principle acknowledged by the Church. Look at the following Biblical narrative that gives positive identification of the principle of subsidiarity. In Exodus 18:13-24 Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, sees how Moses is over burdened in his mission of leading Israel, and councils him not to do it alone.
The principal theme of the Pastoral letter regarding Economic Justice is that every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community. Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights.
All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable. Economic life that is human, moral, and Christian must be shaped by three questions: What does the economy do for people? What does it do to people? And how do people participate in it? Sacred Scripture describes God as a God of Justice! See Isaiah 61:8, Psalm 11:7, Psalm 33:5, Psalm 37:28, and Psalm 99:4! Please read the Biblical texts just presented. Sacred Scripture gives evidence the worker deserves his wage. In Luke 10:7 Jesus exhorts
The worker deserves his wages.
In 1 Timothy 5:18, let us look at the magnificent words of St. Paul! He exhorts
For the Scripture states, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain" and, "The laborer deserves his wage".
Many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestants view labor unions as an abomination. An Evangelical Protestant Minister showed me in a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, New International Version in the chain index, Page 1325, article 608 regarding labor unions, the chain reference in regard to labor unions refers to Acts 19:25-28, the riot of the silversmiths. The Biblical text gives affirmation that a silversmith named Demetrius, made silver shrines of Diana, a female goddess of the Ephesians. The abomination here is the worship of an idol, the goddess Diana. The idolatry in the worship of a false God. This is a violation of the first Commandment. Again I will repeat, the sin is the sin of idolatry, the worship of a false God. The Protestant view that this particular Biblical text in the book of Acts is the main sufficient cause to castigate labor unions is misleading, and a absolute distortion of the Biblical text. A vast majority of Calvinists reject labor unions. Also, look at the negative attitude toward labor unions in the section of our country called the "Bible Belt".
The question I asked the Evangelical Protestant Pastor: Does basic Protestant teaching like yours teach love of neighbor? After presenting the Catholic view on labor and human dignity to this Evangelical Protestant Minister I received no answer! Let me also emphasize that there are many Protestants who take the Catholic position regarding human labor. Many take a stronger position regarding human labor than some Catholics that I have met. They are people of faith who are union oriented and love Jesus Christ and their neighbor. Let me emphasize that there are many Catholics who follow George Washington, the mighty dollar, instead of the teachings of Christ. Calvinism and Catholicism differ in social teachings. One must abide in the true message of the gospel regarding human dignity and labor, a message of charity. Fraternal Charity is a mandate of Christ!
In Populorum Progressio, a Papal Encyclical promulgated in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, the Pope reflects on traditional Catholic teaching that economic goods are destined for all human persons and thus that the wealthy are bound-- in justice--not charity--to help the poor meet their needs. Sacred Scripture gives affirmative evidence that God created the heavens and the earth. Please contemplate on the following Biblical texts.
In 1 Corinthians 10:26, St. Paul exhorts
The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.
In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus exhorts
Do not lay your treasures up on earth but lay up your treasures in heaven.
In Luke 12:15 Jesus exhorts
Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
Let us look at the blessings and the woes. In Luke 6:24 Jesus exhorts
Woe to you who are rich for you have received your consolation.
Money is truly a blessing when used in the Biblical plan of God. Money is not sinful. Greed, the love of money, is sinful. In 1 Timothy 6:10, St. Paul exhorts
For the love of money is the root of all evil.
In Acts 20:35, St. Paul gives affirmative evidence that in toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of Jesus,
It is more blessed to give than receive.
Look at magnificent words of the Old Testament great prophet Isaiah regarding true fasting. Isaiah 58:6-9 states
Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily, your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am."
This teaching truly correlates with the magnificent teaching of Christ in the "Parable of the Last Judgment" in Matthew 25:31-46!
The teachings of Christ call mankind to love God and to love one's neighbor. In Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-30, and Luke 10:27, the greatest commandments are mentioned. Jesus exhorts
First is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14 gives evidence the law is fulfilled in a single command: To love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 state the "Golden Rule":
Therefore all that you wish men to do to you, even so you do you also to them.
This truly constitutes love of neighbor. Yes we are to bear one another's burdens. In Galatians 6:2, St. Paul exhorts
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
In Mark 10:42-45, Scripture gives evidence that true discipleship is imitation of the life of Christ in our service to others. In James 2:8, St. James gives evidence to fulfill the royal law of Scripture that
You must love your neighbor as yourself!
Divine law is the moral and perfect plan of God leading all created beings to share in the communion of his own happiness. Let us put on the mind of Christ! Let us see Christ in others!
May God Richly Bless You! Amen! Hallelujah!
Charles 'Friar Buck' Hatchko
September 1, 2004