St. Paul the Apostle saw dignity in work and had strong words against those who choose to remain in idleness.
It is tempting to view work as something lower than humanity, an activity that we reluctantly do and try to avoid at all cost.
However, that is not the Gospel view of work, especially in the writings of St. Paul.
St. Paul explains in his letter to the Thessalonians that he does what he can to work for his daily bread.
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you.2 Thessalonians 3:7-8
It is believed that St. Paul worked as a tent maker, and practiced this trade during his missionary travels. He had a strong work ethic, believing that idleness is to be avoided at all costs.
In fact, he had strong words against those who could work, but choose not to and to remain idle.
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 personswe 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
This is not referring to those who are earnestly trying to find work and can’t find employment, or who repeatedly get turned-down at every job interview, or even those who are retired after many years of work.
St. Paul is talking to people who don’t even try to find work and who could easily pick up any job.
Work shouldn’t be seen as something negative, but should be seen as a sacrifice we can give to God. Flipping burgers at McDonald’s can become a prayer to God!
St. John Paul II wrote extensively about the dignity of work in his encyclical, Laborem Exercens, where he ends his reflection saying, “Let the Christian who listens to the word of the living God, uniting work with prayer, know the place that his work has not only in earthly progress but also in the development ot the Kingdom of God, to which we are all called through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the word of the Gospel.”
Work is a good activity while on this earth and a Gospel way of living.