On the dignity of work
by Msgr. Gammy D. Tulabing JCD, PC

Work is a human vocation. To work is indeed a calling. Through work man must earn his daily bread. Without work, it is not possible to sustain life in order to reach the full development of one’s personality. Work is the duty of man which arises from the very needs of man’s life. Only work that is well done and lovingly completed deserves the praise of the Lord. It is no good offering to God something that is less perfect than what our human limitations permit.

It is not true that man’s duty to work is a consequence of original sin. From the beginning of creation, man had to work. We remember that God commanded Adam and Eve to “conquer the earth”. He put them in the garden of Eden to cultivate it, that is, to work on it and make it productive. (cfr. Genesis 2:15).

Work binds man to man. Work teaches us mutual service and gives us a chance to perform it. Through associating with our neighbors we come to feel the need of service—to want to serve others. This means to want to serve our family, our neighbors, our fellow workers, our country.

Work which teaches us love leads us to a sense of our need for one another. Work also teaches us the feeling of dependence and humility. The sense of our need for one another in a human society somehow brings us to new possibilities of development through the adjustment, division, and intensification of combined human efforts. This is the social bond and the brotherhood of people through work.

We also remember that the Son of God became one of us and worked like us. He did the humble work of a carpenter. And in doing so, our Lord Jesus Christ ennobled all human work. Our work contributes not only to our material well-being. It also contributes to the salvation of the world. It is not only paghahanap-buhay. It is also pagbibigaybuhay. It helps not only in the salvation of the economy but also it helps the economy of salvation. We can translate the Gospel in carrying out our everyday tasks and responsibilities in our respective line of work. It is faith in God, faith in ourselves, and faith in the government that can move us to be productive. Our efficiency in work can contribute much to the credibility of our efforts.

Though we should humble ourselves, we can also take a legitimate pride in ourselves and in our work. No matter how small our part is in the great undertaking of rebuilding this nation, still without us, the whole system will not work properly. It is through the small contribution of each one of us that we can complete our task.

Man is made to be in the visible universe an image and likeness of God Himself, and man is placed in the world in order to subdue the earth. (Genesis 1:28). From the beginning, therefore, man is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work. Only man works, at the same time by work he occupies his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, and it is the mark of a person operating within a community of persons.

When man, who had been created “in the image of God…”, hears the words: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it”, even though the words do not refer directly and explicitly to work, beyond any doubt these words indicate that work is an activity for man to carry out in the world. Man is the image of God partly through the mandate he received from his Creator to subdue and to dominate the earth. Work then presupposes a specific dominion by man over the earth, and in turn it confirms and develops this dominion. As man, through his work, becomes more and more master of the earth, and as he confirms his dominion over the visible world, again through his work, man nevertheless remains in every case and at every phase of this process within the Creator’s original ordering. Indeed, work is a human vocation.

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