WHEN God created the world He included also labor to be part of it. He said to the man and the woman He created: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be master of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth” (Gen. 1, 28). It was about making order out of chaos, and nature was there to keep them alive with herbal food.

But then, it happened that man was tempted by Satan and he became disobedient to God’s commandment. God said to the woman: “I will multiply your pains in child bearing, you shall give birth to your children in pain”. To the man He said: “Accursed be the soil because of you; with suffering shall you get your food from it every day of your life. With sweat on your brow shall you eat your bread” (Gen. 3, 17-19). After the Fall, work became a suffering. This created a culture among men that everyone would rather not work. Work became a drudgery and people rather hang around and do nothing.

Then God sent his Son into the world and He took upon himself all the sufferings of men. He died on the Cross for our redemption. After his Resurrection, He made new all creation in the cosmic Christ (Rev. 21, 5). How can the universe story be integrated with the raising of Christ, drawing us all into a deeper and loving relationship with our planet, inspiring in us a more urgent sense of responsibility for it and for its inhabitants? The German theologian Karl Rahner says: “Christ rose, not to show that he was God, but to prove that he has definitively transformed this earth into the glorious, immeasurable dwelling of the living God.”

Work is there to be enjoyed again. Work became for men a vocation, a challenge. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem Exercens, sees good work as good for the human being who does it. Work is for men and not men for work. St. Paul, who himself was a tent maker, said: “If you do not work, you shall not eat”. There are many different kinds of work: manual work, intellectual work, the health work of doctors and the artistic work of painters and musical composers.

So the question is for us Christians: are you happy in your work? Are you spiritually uplifted? In our society today such questions might be regarded as irrelevant, even subversive, by the majority of economists, politicians and business executives. Happiness in work comes a long way down the list. Our culture is biased towards the view that everyone would rather not work than work, that work is in a sense a curse – that drudgery is the natural order of things. But in fact, work is there to be enjoyed, not suffered.

People who did some research on our workforces identified the primary conditions of what might be called good work. The most important of these is ‘engagement’, the sense of genuine participation and involvement in what the worker is doing. To focus on this is what makes the whole industrial enterprise meaningful.

It improves performance and productivity, reduces absenteeism and sick leave, encourages honesty and enterprise. What is important is that the employee is valued, and being treated fairly, as a human being. Laborem Excrcens refuses to accept that labor is no more than a commodity that can be bought and sold, entirely subject to the laws of supply and demand. Labor markets do not behave like other markets.

I believe, it is high time that in a Christian society like ours, the rights of the workers is restored again in our Constitution. Low-paid workers are not happy people. All workers have the right to demand a just living wage from their employers.

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]