I would like to wish all readers a Happy Workers’ Day! It presents an opportunity to introspect with me on the subject of ‘Reflections on Labour and the Dignity of the Human Person’
May day must be distinguished from “May Day – May Day!” which is a distress call. May Day commemoration reminds us of the importance of work to the human spirit. God charges all of us to ‘be fruitful and multiple, fill the earth and subdue it’. This is what the Anglo Saxons translated to land use – from where came the concept behind the Land Use Act. Work is important in that it is something that makes our essence connect with the divine charge.
It has been said that through work man must earn his daily bread, and contribute to the continual advance of science and technology, and above all to elevating unceasingly the cultural and moral level of the society within which he lives in community with those who belong to the same family. Work therefore means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual (product or services), whatever its nature and circumstances; it means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many activities of which man is capable and to which he is predisposed by nature, by virtue of humanity itself.
Man is made to be in the visible image and likeness of God Himself and he is placed in it in order to subdue the earth. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creature whose activities for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Work therefore is a characteristic of humanity, and the mark of a person generating within the community. Work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.
Let us always remember that God charges all of us to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. In carrying out the mandate, every human being reflects the very action of the Creator of the Universe.
That our Lord Jesus Christ devoted most of the years of His life on earth to manual work at the carpenter’s bench. This circumstance constitutes in itself the most eloquent “Gospel of Work” showing that the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person. This becomes the primary source of the dignity of labour. Such a concept actually does away with the very basis of the rather ancient differentiation of people into classes according to the kind of work done.
We must conclude therefore however we look at it, work for MAN, and not MAN for work. It is important to digest this universal truth as it helps us form the basis for prioritization of our responsibilities to family, to God, to our neighbours, to our society, etc.
As man forms the focal point of, and reason for work, it means that the dignity of the worker must be retained irrespective of the nature of the work. We acknowledge that the modern day concepts of capitalism and materialism, and economistic thoughts may form direct challenges to the dignity of the worker; they however remain just that – possible challenges. The do not and cannot charge the ordered purpose of work, and the dignity of the human person. For instance, no law excuses the assault of an employee simply because the employee is of a particular cadre.