Christianity’s Contributions: Labor dignified (Part 2)

As we continue our examination of the benefits of the Christian faith for all humanity, this month’s focus is on work.  A biblical perspective is that work is ordained by God and is good, whether it is labor done with your hands or head.  No work is menial or insignificant, nor beneath people in God’s eyes.  Although Rome didn’t see it that way, Christianity changed the world.

The Early Church continued what Jesus and Paul had done—working with their hands as well as spreading the Good News of salvation through Christ.  The Apostolic Constitutions said, “The Lord our God hates the slothful” (375), since humans were made to work, filling the earth and subduing it as in Genesis 1:28.  Because we are made to work, many Bible verses speak about the sin of laziness.  Later, in the 4th century, St. Basil said, “Idleness is a great evil; work preserves us from evil thoughts.”

In the 1500’s, Martin Luther emphasized one’s work as a calling (vocatio) to glorify God and serve others.  Since work maintains the world and the people in it, that makes it a noble duty.  Eventually, the Protestant (Christian) work ethic became a norm among people.  Echoing Luther, a German sociologist, Max Weber, explained work as a calling (or vocation), leading to this work ethic.  This would help foster the development of the Middle class, something the Greco-Roman world never had.  Their existence had either rich or poor people.

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