Religious approaches to work Essay Example
Religious approaches to work Essay Example

Religious approaches to work Essay Example

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  • Pages: 9 (2284 words)
  • Published: September 21, 2017
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Chapter 3 Work in the multi-religious context

  1. Introduction

In every faith, work is considered a crucial aspect of human existence, although different beliefs exist regarding its significance. However, it is universally acknowledged that work is essential for survival and sustenance. Religions like Hinduism view work as both a responsibility towards God and one's household. This chapter explores the historical perspective of work in a multi-religious context and examines how each religion perceives its importance in national development and economic status. The chapter also addresses the issue of poverty, which is closely intertwined with the value attributed to work.

  1. A Catholic Approach to Work

The Catholic theology of work interprets it through a divine lens. It encompasses three key


aspects. Firstly, it sees work as a consequence or punishment for original sin, as stated in the Genesis text: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Gen.3.19). Secondly, it acknowledges that God assigned mankind with the task of cultivating and maintaining the Earth in the Garden of Eden (Gen.2.15). Initially, before humanity's fall from grace, there was significant change in labor dynamics. Yahweh declared that because of man's actions, the land would be cursed; thus he would have to toil and rely on it for sustenance throughout his life. Thorns and thistles would grow abundantly while consuming plants from fields became necessary.
The curse of man's sinfulness, as described in Genesis 3:17-19, resulted in the need for hard work to sustain oneself. This curse affected the soil and fields where man labored, transforming what was once graceful and effortless into a painful struggle. However, it is important to acknowledge

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that sin did not alter the laws and order of nature; rather, it caused changes in the powers and energies through which man shaped the material world. Consequently, mankind sought new technologies to control and manipulate these transformed elements but found that they only added more hardships to their work. Every attempt at dominance led to new problems arising, resulting in the consequences of sin being experienced throughout all stages of life.

While Genesis 3:17-19 specifically refers to adult males laboring in fields, its implications extend to all forms of physical or mental work. Paul expresses this challenge in his own work in Galatians 4:11 when he says he fears his labor over them has been in vain. Similarly, God's redemption is portrayed as difficult in Isaiah 43:24 when it states that humanity has burdened Him with wickedness and wearied Him with their iniquities. Therefore, viewing work solely as a punishment for wickedness is an inaccurate understanding.The difficulties and struggles that come with work, such as oppression, weariness, and drudgery, are a result of original sin and personal wrongdoing. However, these challenges only represent one aspect of the reality of work. On the positive side, work brings forth the fruits of labor and promotes personal and community values. Therefore, work is an innate part of human nature. Yet, sin introduced a new element that predominantly defines work as hardship.

Another perspective on work stems from the creationist viewpoint found in the Old Testament. According to this perspective, humans have been given the freedom to govern and take care of the Earth while cultivating it. In doing so, they collaborate with God's creative endeavor in this world. The

creation narrative portrays Yahweh as an incredibly active God who undertakes numerous tasks. Genesis states that after His creative activity brought everything into existence, He deemed it good. God is depicted as a productive worker who finds joy in His labor.

Following this account, God creates man as the pinnacle of His creation and assigns him with tending to and nurturing the garden that God has provided for him. Loren Wilkinson suggests that through this act, God invites us to join Him in shaping the world around us. As we do so, we become co-creators by making discoveries and innovations guided by divine cues provided by God himself.

From an evolutionary perspective, the belief is that man has the responsibility to continue God's creation. However, it is not sufficient for man to simply carry out the creative process; he must also nurture and govern it. This viewpoint regards work as a dynamic and positive force, urging individuals to explore their own talents and abilities in order to gain increasing control over nature. Richardson argues that it is not sinful to utilize technology or other advancements to alleviate the burdensome aspects of labor; in fact, it is a Christian duty to eliminate the hardships associated with work. This includes removing obstacles and difficulties while also easing the physical toll that work may exert on individuals.

Given these concepts, one might question whether all types of work can be considered creative. Many monotonous and dehumanizing jobs performed by adult men during the 20th century lack joy and significance. Even in one's wildest imagination, a worker may only perceive their job as a means of providing for their family. Thus, it

becomes crucial to combine service with creative work. Work itself is an occupation specific to humans.

God's calling encompass three components: first being called to belong to God, transforming even nameless and homeless street children into children of God and members of His family - this represents the call for discipleship. Second aspect involves being called to live as God's people within a holy community that strives towards bringing glory and honor across all facets of life within both church and world - this reflects sanctification through pursuing holiness.Thirdly, the text emphasizes the importance of engaging in God's work within both the church and the world. This includes utilizing various gifts, talents, ministries, occupations, roles, work, and missions as part of our call to serve [7]. In the Old Testament, human work was cursed due to wickedness but through salvation in Christ it can be significantly improved by recognizing its significance in relation to God (Col.3:22-4:1). Additionally, Christ's death has disarmed oppressive powers allowing us to overcome workplace challenges (Col.2:15), although complete healing will only occur when the Lord returns (Rom.8:19-21). Even in Christian work we will still encounter struggles until the end [8].

Theologian Francis Schussler Fiorenza argues that work is not merely a vocational task or technical mastery but also plays an essential role in human and societal interaction. The concepts of power and progress influence how we perceive and understand work as they shape our interactions with others [9].

As humans we participate in God's work by serving individuals and society alike. Many people who hold different millennial positions believe that God will establish a new Earth surrounded by Heaven where Saints will live eternally

with Christ ruling alongside them (Isa 65:17-25).Both the belief in the goodness of the Earth and eschatology play a significant role in determining if work has everlasting value. The Bible states that there will be a "new Eden and a new earth" (Rev.21:1;2 Pet.3:13;Isa.65:17, 66:22), but there are two theories on how this will happen. According to Walvoord and J.D. Pentecost, the current Earth and Eden will be destroyed and replaced by a new Eden and new earth through an act of new creation. However, Hoyt holds the belief that God will create a new Eden and Earth by changing or rearranging the materials in the existing Eden and Earth.

Criswell states that Earth will be our eternal home, but it will be redeemed and purified in the future. Similarly, Cosden believes that all work and its products can be transformed and carried over into heaven. He argues that just as God raised Jesus from the dead, He can also raise and transform earthly realities from work, giving it greater significance.

Protestantism has developed a more positive view of work due to Calvin's beliefs. Calvin believed that work was God's will for everyone regardless of their social status, emphasizing hard work and dedication as ways for mankind to reflect God's glory on Earth while bringing about His kingdom. This belief in diligent labor led to economic success among Protestant followers, contributing to the rise of capitalism.
Calvin and Luther both had distinct perspectives on wealth and work. Calvin believed that if one received riches from God, they should embrace it with gratitude rather than reject it. Luther saw work as a sacred act inspired by faith, considering any

work done in accordance with religion as holy and commendable. Both religion and Hindu traditions emphasize the importance of work in the eyes of God or for achieving happiness and fulfillment. Whether it is performing religious duties like saying mass or doing everyday tasks like washing clothes, all types of work hold equal value. Luther argued against differentiating between spiritual careers and professions, believing that Christians should find redemption within their secular "calling" or personal "vocation". However, there is a struggle to determine the spiritual significance of our daily jobs. Luther viewed work primarily as a means for bodily sustenance, while those unable to work deserved charity. He also disapproved of commercialism and capitalism, unlike Calvin. Similarly, Hindu traditions place high importance on karma or work. According to the Mahabharata, pure actions bring happiness while evil actions lead to suffering.Action is key to personal growth and progress, while inactivity leads to stagnation. Asceticism can bring beauty, fortune, and various forms of wealth. In Hinduism, individuals believe that heaven, happiness, and desired outcomes are achieved solely through personal efforts. Destiny plays a role but cannot produce results without action or work. Just as a lamp needs oil to burn, fate requires action to manifest. Our destiny depends on our work; we create and destroy it ourselves. The Bhagavad-Gita provides guidance on the importance of work, stating that life is work and detachment from outcomes is necessary for liberation. Work and knowledge go hand in hand; abstaining from work does not lead to freedom from action or perfection through renunciation. Naiskarmya is the state of remaining unaffected by work; however, avoiding work is not possible as we

are bound by the consequences of our actions. What matters is rejecting selfish desires rather than rejecting work itself. These verses emphasize that no one can remain idle due to natural urges compelling everyone to act constantly. In this physical world, escaping from action is impossible; life cannot be sustained without work.
The liberated soul continues to work, as all work is a deviation from the supreme state and is rejected. Action is inevitable as long as life remains. Therefore, every minute we engage in various activities such as thinking and living. True non-action means being free from desire and the illusion of personal involvement, rather than physically abstaining from activity.

According to the Gita, when a liberated individual no longer has personal responsibilities, it means they no longer perform actions out of personal attachment. This does not mean avoiding action and seeking refuge in blissful inactivity. They work in the same way God does, without any binding necessity or compelling ignorance. Even while performing work, they are not emotionally invested.

When their egoism is eliminated, their actions come from the depths of their being and are guided by the supreme secret within their heart. Being free from desire and attachment, united with all beings, they act from the core of their inner self, guided by their immortal, divine, and highest self.

The Gita advises individuals to perform their assigned work since everyone has their own tasks to fulfill. Action is better than inactivity. The maintenance of physical life requires work. The world is bound by work. Therefore, all work must be done as a sacrifice by letting go of all attachment and with a divine spirit.The Mimamsa

emphasizes performing actions with sacrificial intention, while the Gita advises performing actions without expecting rewards. Sacrifice refers to offering our human nature to the divine. Work originates from Brahma, who comes from the eternal, grounding our actions in eternity. According to verse 16 of the poems, refusing to contribute to society leads to an evil and purposeless life. Liberation entails finding complete happiness in realizing and enjoying one's true self, detached from gain or loss through action or inaction. By performing tasks without attachment, we attain purity of mind that leads to salvation. Even those ignorant of truth can engage in actions for self-purification. Like God tirelessly preserving the world, humans should also work for universe preservation. Surrendering ourselves and having an attitude of "Thy will be done" while engaging in work is crucial. We should approach work as servants of the Lord. The Gita states that everyone has a specific task expected of them; it is better to do one's own work imperfectly than excel at another person's responsibility. Faithfully fulfilling entrusted duties matters more than talents possessed.Regardless of the unpleasantness, it is important to remain faithful to our responsibilities until death. True renunciation involves not being completely inactive, but rather performing work with a sense of detachment. In Hindu scriptures, work holds significant value in human life as it is what God expects from each individual. We are obligated to continue working until we achieve complete liberation. It is selfish work that should be abandoned, as it binds us to the cycle of karma. The Gita does not advocate for the renunciation of work; instead, it encourages performing actions and

offering them to the Supreme for immortality. By detaching ourselves from ego and personal preferences while engaging in actions guided by eternity, we attain true renunciation while actively participating in the world. Liberation can be attained through work executed with the right mindset and internal rejection. Once self-liberation is achieved, our actions no longer strive for a final outcome.

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