Is it Friday yet?
How often we hear this lament at work! At times, we might agree and truly wish it were Friday. However, if we step back and examine our attitude toward work and the countless opportunities to grow spiritually by sharing the Good News of the Gospel, we might begin to ask instead, is it Monday yet?
Why take the opposite view?
For Christians, there is the reality that we were made to work, to seize the day, to take the Word of God with us into the world from our Sunday worship.
Not only were we created to work, sharing our time, talent, and treasures to support God’s plan of Creation, but we are called to grow in holiness by giving our work dignity. In this way, we honor the work God began with Creation and build up the Kingdom of heaven here on earth (Genesis 1:26).
Pope Francis noted “It is written in the book of Genesis that humanity was created to till the earth and care for it, … it is the way in which God gives human beings the capacity to transform themselves, creating new things, not only to satisfy human needs but also to improve the world” (Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words by Francesca Ambrogetti).
How do we go about giving dignity to our work? A guide may be found in Philippians 4:8: “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Let’s ponder these virtues.
True: Are we loyal to our supervisor and to our co-workers, as well as our employer? Rumors often get spread at work. Do we seek out the truth and dispel falsehoods? If someone has a good idea, do we give them credit or try to subvert it or even take credit for it ourselves? Do we share important information? Being dedicated to our employer and faithful to the truth in all matters sets the bar high, honors God’s Commandment not to lie, and adds dignity to our work. It sets us apart as living examples of goodness – which is the goal of holiness.
Honorable: Honoring the mission and goals of the organization that employs us elevates our intentions to be a cut above those who simply work for a paycheck. It also engages the Holy Spirit in our work. Do we know what the mission and goals are? Do we limit ourselves to the basic description of our job or are we willing to go the extra mile in partnership with our co-workers? Teamwork creates synergy – that forward motion toward a goal where 2 + 2 equals 10 or even more. Scripture confirms synergy is the basis for spiritual success: “We know God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Just: Employers need to pay just wages and employees need to give a full day’s work. Arriving before the start of work is laudable. Constantly leaving work early, taking extended breaks, and wasting time with idle chit chat is disrespectful. Do you want to be known as a valuable employee? Make every minute of work count! If you have a complaint, bring it to the boss with positive suggestions for resolution. Justice doesn’t come easy at work or in the world, but the fruit of justice is peace. Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, past Archbishop of Cebu in the Philippines wrote: “It is everyone’s responsibility to pursue justice patiently, consistently, and unselfishly (Is. 32:17).” Moreover, a peace-filled, just workplace is a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom we are called to build.
Pure: For-profit businesses are a blessing to society. When they create wealth for small businesses and stockholders, they open the door for many people to provide for their families and support charity for the poor. When they produce a service or product to make life better, we all benefit. Yet sometimes profits may be disproportionate and contribute to an imbalance in the distribution of wealth. According to statista.com, in the second quarter of 2023, 69% of the total wealth in the United States was owned by the top 10% of earners. In comparison, the lowest 50% of earners only held 2.5% of the total wealth. The Christian challenge is to recognize wealth as a means to an end. We can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). Our faith challenges us to be generous as we will be judged by Christ at the end of our days for the way we use our wealth (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Lovely: How do we beautify our workplace and our work? Beauty is not limited to artwork and manicured gardens. It may also include a smile to greet visitors and co-workers. While not a Scriptural guide, many people proclaim, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Yet cleanliness is not just the work of the janitor! We each have a responsibility in maintaining our work areas and giving them dignity. The neatness of our desk or workstation is a sign of our professionalism. Likewise, it’s a blessing to recognize those who make our workplaces shine by mopping the floor, cleaning the toilets, and emptying trash cans. They are being Christ to us, serving in the humblest way.
Gracious: Words of gratitude for our co-workers, subordinates, and supervisor should be the first to leave our mouths at the beginning and end of each day. In his 2017 Thanksgiving article in Forbes, author Luis E. Romero proposed gratitude as the ultimate spiritual practice. It requires no special training nor theological studies. “Being grateful is equivalent to feeling the presence of the Divine in our lives. It is the same as being in a state of bliss. It allows us to see value, virtue and benefit in everything… and everyone (my add).” Scripture is filled with admonitions to give thanks to God in all things and in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5: 18). What better way to be a good example of Christianity!
Excellence: Daily we encounter opportunities to do our work well. We are challenged by Christ’s command to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.” Even in the Creation story of Genesis, God stops to evaluate his work, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31). In essence, excellence is worth striving for, even for the Lord.
Worthy of Praise: The Matt Redman song, 10,000 Reasons, lists the various attributes of God that make him worthy of praise: holiness, loving kindness, slow to anger, kind heart, goodness, and great name. What would make us or our work worthy of praise? Are we holy, kind, slow to anger? It is important to remember that our attitude toward work reflects our Christian attributes.
Will people know we are Christian by the way we add dignity to our work? Hopefully they will find out on Monday…
Lorena Needham is a parishioner of Saint Marguerite Catholic Church and commissioned lay minister of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.