Christianity’s Contributions: Labor dignified (Part 1)

The contributions that Christianity has made to the world is profound.  Often we don’t  even realize it.  Let’s turn our attention to the area of work.  Going back to the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament, manual labor was only for the lower class and slaves.   Although slaves received a small subsistence allowance and eventually could buy their freedom, they would be looked at with disdain even as a freedman. Roman statesman and scholar Cicero said working for a living was “unbecoming to a gentleman.”

The Bible, however, had a different view of work.  The “Cultural Commission” in Genesis 1:28 was to “fill the earth and subdue it.”  God gave humans dominion and the ability to create things, whether it is a farm or a factory.  The worker should be paid for his work.  Deuteronomy 25:4 says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, ” and Jesus said, “The worker deserves his wages,” in Luke 10:7.

The idea of working was God’s design for all humans.  It helps the worker (pay and self-esteem) as well as the one who receives the product or service. But laziness was not the design; that’s why Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  Besides being hungry, there are other consequences for laziness.  Ecclesiastes 10:18 says, “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.”

Yet for Christians, the motivation wasn’t only to provide for the family and prevent poverty.  To work as if working for God was the command in Ephesians 6:7.  It says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Whether it was gardening (Adam– Genesis 2:15), carpentry (Jesus–Matthew 13:55), or tent-making (Paul–Acts 18:3), all work had value.  It is part of God’s divine design.

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