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Good Work

August 28, 2016

8th Commandment

Why do we get up in the morning, make ourselves presentable to the world, and go off to work? Is it for a paycheck? Is it simply to keep our households functioning? Is It merely to supply our daily bread? Is it because the alternative is criminal and immoral—a violation of the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal”?

The Apostle Paul gives a surprising answer to the question, “Why work?” He began by affirming the eighth commandment. “Let the thief no longer steal,” he wrote, “but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands.” Honest work is the way we obey the eighth commandment and avoid becoming a thief. But that’s not why we work. Paul went on to say that the thief should do honest work, “so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

Paul sees more than “Thou shalt not…” in God’s commands. He recognizes, as Jesus did, that God’s law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to something higher than not stealing. We are called to honest work that benefits our neighbor as an expression of brotherly love.

Honest work blesses others. It contributes to the common good, and it adds to the flourishing of our neighbors. In addition, the fruit of our labor is to be used to help those who have nothing and not just ourselves. Why do we work? Because in God’s kingdom our work becomes a manifestation of his love for the world.

Exodus 20:15

Ephesians 4:28

Galatians 5:13-14

from Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167)

Lord, I sometimes wander away from you.
But this is not because I am deliberately turning my back on you.
It is because of the inconstancy of my mind.
I weaken in my intention to give my whole soul to you.
I fall back into thinking of myself as my own master.
But when I wander from you, my life becomes a burden,
and within me I find nothing but darkness...
So I come back to you, and confess that I have sinned against you.
And I know you will forgive me.

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